Director of Development & Communications
Authors David Sheff and Nic Sheff, NFL Players Association, Inc., Filmmaker William “Michael” Barbee, and Musician Alex Boyé were honored at Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services’ 2019 Erasing the Stigma Awards
April 26, 2019
Culver City, Calif. (April 26, 2019) – New York Times bestselling authors David Sheff and Nic Sheff, the NFL Players Association, Inc., filmmaker William “Michael” Barbee, and YouTube music sensation Alex Boyé were honored at the 23rd Annual Erasing the Stigma Awards on Thursday, April 25, 2019. The event was emceed by TV host/producer Melissa Rivers, a suicide prevention advocate who recently joined Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services’ Board of Directors.
Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services, a nonprofit which has provided free mental health, substance use and suicide prevention services for over 75 years, conferred the honors at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. The fundraising event raised over $500,000 for Didi Hirsch, which helps thousands of families each year from 10 locations and nearly 100 schools throughout Southern California. Didi Hirsch is also home to the nation’s first Suicide Prevention Center, which recently relocated to Century City.
David Sheff and his son, Nic Sheff, were honored with the Beatrice Stern Media Award. David and Nic Sheff are both authors whose memoirs about their family’s devastating experience with substance use disorder inspired the feature film Beautiful Boy, starring Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet. David’s Amazon Book of the Year Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction provided the film’s title and helped launch him as an advocate for families struggling with substance use disorder. In accepting the honor, David Sheff stated,” “No one is blamed when they become ill with breast cancer or Parkinson’s disease. But people who become addicted are judge as weak-willed, choosing to get high without caring if they hurt others—or even themselves. They’re often shunned and vilified—as are their families…People who are ill don’t deserve our judgment and censure; they deserve our compassion.”
Nic’s New York Times bestselling memoir Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines provided additional source material for the film and is one of two books he has written about his experience recovering from an addiction to methamphetamines. David and Nic also collaborated on High: Everything You Want to Know About Drugs, Alcohol, and Addiction, which was published in January 2019 and is a resource for middle-school readers about the realities of drug and alcohol addictions. In accepting the honor, Nic Sheff said, “If it wasn’t for treatment professionals, if it wasn’t for organizations like [Didi Hirsch], there is absolutely no way that I could have made it…I’m just so grateful that everyone could come together in a room like this to be here to support addicts.”
Actor Jack Dylan Grazer, who portrayed a teenage Nic in “Beautiful Boy,” presented David and Nic Sheff with the honor, saying, “I wish I could say I was too young to understand addiction, but too many kids my age fall victim to it, just like Nic did. So, in sharing their story, David and Nic told the stories of a lot of families, including some that I know.”
Supermodel-turned-supermogul Kathy Ireland, who recently joined the board of The National Football League Players Association (NFLPA), introduced NFL Offensive Tackle Donald Penn, who accepted the Leadership Award on behalf of NFLPA, the union for professional football players in the National Football League. The NFLPA has launched a number of initiatives to address whole health, including the mental health of players and their families. It created “Your Mind, Your Body, Your Health,” an online forum that debunks myths and encourages an open dialogue on issues such as depression and suicide. It also created several videos that brought together players and spouses to discuss their experience with depression, the stigma of mental illness in professional football, and other topics to improve the health and safety of players and to let them and their fans know they are not alone.
In presenting the award, Kathy Ireland said, “Like the lifespan of many athletes, my long ago modeling career had a short shelf life. Had the modeling industry had an entity such as NFLPA, many careers would have found new paths. Precious lives would have been protected and saved. The NFLPA brings opportunities of business, marketing, licensing, philanthropy and protection for health—physical and mental. The NFLPA… is a leader in destigmatizing mental health through education, research and advocacy.”
In accepting the award on behalf of NFLPA, Donald Penn said, “It’s hard to admit and ask for help because you’re looked upon as someone who’s supposed to be able to do everything and be the toughest, strongest guy….We’re not meant to break. But I’ve been in the league 13 years and a lot of guys I’ve been around have issues…I’m so happy the NFLPA has opened up so many opportunities for guys to get help.”
Iconic actor, Bill Duke presented William “Michael” Barbee with the Leadership Award. Barbee is an entrepreneur, mental health advocate and producer/writer/director of Beyond the Silence, a movie about how people are often incarcerated instead of treated for mental illness. Barbee, who credits treatment for his recovery from depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and a suicide attempt at age 20, is passionate about helping others with mental illness. He now makes a point of hiring employees who live with mental illness and created a nonprofit arm of his transportation company to help people with mental illness get to their counseling appointments. He has written two books with mental health themes. He also serves on the Mental Health Association of Essex County Board of Directors and was honored at the 2013 Governor’s Council on Mental Health. In accepting his award, he stated, “Services and treatment are a must, but it’s also a must that we have mentorship… I am grateful for the work Didi Hirsch is doing here and the example they’re setting across the nation.”
Melissa Rivers, the evening’s emcee, who lost her father to suicide, presented Alex Boyé with the Mental Health Ambassador Award. Boyé is a multicultural musical artist who has shared the stage with the likes of Jay-Z, Tim McGraw and Justin Timberlake. He is passionate about spreading messages of hope and light through his music—especially to people struggling with mental illness. The video for his single “Bend Not Break,” which was produced by American Idol judge Randy Jackson, included hundreds of residents of Herriman, Utah, a community which grieved the loss of several teens to suicide in one year. In accepting the honor, Boyé said, “I was at the opening of the expanded Suicide Prevention Center and believe me when I tell you, the new location is full of love, unity, healing, happiness and hope. I’m so happy that Didi Hirsch exists and I’m proud to join all of you in its mission to erase the stigma of mental illness.”
For photos, please click HERE.
About Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services:
Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services is one of the nation’s leading providers of community mental health, substance use and suicide prevention services. Dedicated to serving communities where stigma or poverty limits access, the agency has been transforming lives for more than 75 years through its innovative and comprehensive approach to care. Today, Didi Hirsch helps over 120,000 adults and children annually from 10 locations and nearly 100 schools in Southern California.
Didi Hirsch’s 60-year-old Suicide Prevention Center – the first and most comprehensive in the United States—celebrated the grand opening of its new home in Century City in February 2019. The standalone building nearly doubles the number of people answering its 24/7 multilingual Crisis Line, a key member of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and offers individual and family therapy for those who need more help than support groups can provide. Each year, the Center trains over 10,000 students, teachers faith-based groups, business people and first responders how to recognize and respond to warning signs. It is also developing certified training for mental health professionals to build a larger network of therapists who know how to aid people in a suicidal crisis. Learn more at www.didihirsch.org.
For more information, please go to www.erasingthestigma.org