The 24th annual Erasing the Stigma award ceremony had to be held virtually this year due to the new coronavirus, but the focus — on normalizing mental health and suicide prevention — is just as vital as ever.
This year, Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services, a nonprofit providing mental health, substance abuse and suicide prevention services for over 75 years that organizes the Erasing the Stigma Campaign and awards, is honoring PEOPLE magazine for their Let’s Talk About It mental health campaign, along with suicide prevention advocate Talinda Bennington and Emmy Award-winning news anchor Christine Devine.
The awards were handed out by Melissa Rivers, a longtime advocate for suicide prevention following the death of her father, producer Edgar Rosenberg, and Didi Hirsch board member.
“I’m deeply committed to erasing the stigma that attaches to you when you lose someone to suicide,” Rivers tells PEOPLE. “After my father [producer Edgar Rosenberg] died when I was 19, I went back to college and people didn’t know what to say to me. I realized then that we have to talk about mental health and suicide prevention.”
Rivers notes that mental health help is essential during the COVID-19 pandemic, and said that calls to Didi Hirsch’s Disaster Distress Helpline have “tripled.”
“If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts or in distress because of the COVID-19 pandemic, please call the Disaster Distress Helpline at 800-985-5990,” she says.
At the award show, Rivers gave PEOPLE the Beatrice Stern Media Award.
“I am truly honored to accept the Didi Hirsch Erasing the Stigma award on behalf of PEOPLE’s year-long mental health initiative, Let’s Talk About It,” said Editor-in-Chief Dan Wakeford. “By highlighting stories of people and celebrities who have coped with mental illness, we hope to provide resources and support for anyone in need of help, and to encourage the public to have vital conversations about their mental health.”
The Mental Health Ambassador Award went to Bennington, who partnered with the Campaign to Change Director to create 320 Changes Direction, to help families support those dealing with mental health struggles. Bennington’s husband, Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington, died by suicide in 2017.
And Devine was honored with the Erasing the Stigma Leadership Award for her work in the Los Angeles area, where Didi Hirsch is based, throughout her career.
“I am so grateful at a time of crisis to know the team at Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services is there, in the community, in OUR community,” she said. “Thank you to Didi Hirsch for the recognition, and the Leadership Award. I only hope to continue to lead in telling your story.”
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