02/10/2015 04:25 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

A List to Love: 10 Mental Wellness Champions to Celebrate


In a time where so many of our news feeds are filled with sobering stories and disturbing media messages, it can be be easy to overlook the innovation, optimism and inspiration across the mental health landscape. A few weeks ago, I attended a NAMI-NYC dinner, hosted by Dr. Barney and Patricia Kenet, which was a powerful reminder of the brilliance, creativity, and commitment that so many advocates are bringing to their work each day.

As NAMI NYC's board President Barbara Ricci shared in her opening remarks, "The positive news is that there is change occurring," ranging from insurance parity to mental health conversations at Davos to NYC's First Lady McCray's recent announcement of a partnership between the Mayor's fund, the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Fund for Public Health. Looking across the room as Barbara spoke, I was inspired to see such obvious enthusiasm and engagement in people's attention to this important public health issue. It was an honor to be part of an evening where so many leaders across several industries came together in one place to support mental health, keeping the conversation open, the collaboration growing, and the hope enduring.

At the Flawless Foundation we are dedicating this Valentines Day week to "Flawless Love" and I can't think of a better time to 'share the love' than by using the power of social media to capture a snapshot of the resources and great work underway by these inspiring leaders:

Jeffrey Borenstein, MD
Education is a huge part of advocacy, and Dr. Borenstein's work--in addition to his leadership at the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation and his role as editor-in-chief of Psychiatric News--he reaches out to the public as the host of New York Public Media's mental health series, Healthy Minds. The program's emphasis on education helps reduce stigma and offers a message of hope.

Shari Goldfarb
As Director of Benefits at Deutsche Bank, Shari was recently honored at NAMI-NYC's Seeds of Hope Gala for her leadership and for overseeing the first corporate #IWillListen campaign. As Shari knows, listening can be one of the most powerful ways to support a friend, family member, or colleague, because it breaks down the many misconceptions associated with mental illness.

Edythe Hughes
Beyond the glamour of her work on the runway as a fashion model, Edythe challenges her industry colleagues to contribute and engage through Voices of Fashion, an organization she founded in 2012 as a platform for fashion models to showcase their own creativity in order to benefit charitable causes that matter to them--including NAMI. She has spoken poignantly about the need to have "uncomfortable conversations" to make sure the stigma associated with mental illness eventually becomes a thing of the past. What a beautiful inspiration, inside and out!

Jeffrey Lieberman, MD
Dr. Lieberman specializes in the study of schizophrenia and the nature and effectiveness of antipsychotic drugs. In addition to his numerous leadership roles at Columbia University, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, and the New York State Psychiatric Institute, Dr. Lieberman is the immediate past President of the American Psychiatric Association and is anticipating the publication of his newest book, Shrinks: The Untold Story of Psychiatry, in March.

Jay Neugeboren
Jay is the author of 21 books, including two non-fiction titles about mental illness, Imagining Robert: My Brother, Madness, and Survival and Transforming Madness: New Lives for People Living with Mental Illness. Motivated by the experience of his brother Robert and others who live with mental illness, Jay advocates for mental wellness through his service to numerous organizations including the NAMI NYC's board.

Laura Petrecca
A former Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Economics and Business Journalism at Columbia University, Laura covers breaking news as USA Today's New York bureau chief. During the talk with Dr. Lieberman, he acknowledged the excellent news coverage of mental health in USA Today and specifically cited the work of Liz Szabo who is an award-winning medical reporter for USA Today

Kaja Perina
As editor-in-chief at Psychology Today, Kaja credits her lifelong curiosity about human behavior as the foundation of her interest in covering behavioral science in a way that genuinely improves people's lives. Her master's thesis at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism was "The Dilemma of Disclosure: Psychiatrists and Psychologists Suffering from Mental Illness" and her writing has been anthologized in The Best American Science Writing series.

Lloyd I. Sederer, MD
Dr. Sederer is the Medical Director of the New York State Office of Mental Health and an adjunct professor at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. His book The Family Guide to Mental Healthcare was written to help individuals, their families, and their friends navigate the "bewildering and frustrating maze" of the mental health system with concrete guidance and a tone of passionate optimism. You can find him online at The Huffington Post and Ask Dr. Lloyd

Barbara Ricci
Barbara is a Managing Director in the Markets Division at Deutsche Bank and Board President for NAMI-NYC Metro, the largest local affiliate of NAMI.Barbara also serves on the advisory board of the National Psychosis Prevention Council. Many years ago, after her brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia, she started to attend NAMI's support groups for family members of those with mental illness. Now, through her participation as a mental health advocate, Barbara continues to create a community where healing and hope are made tangible every day.

Mike Thompson
Mental health advocacy is a cornerstone of Mike's work as a healthcare consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers and his service with NAMI-NYC, the Northeast Business Group on Health, The Kennedy Forum, and through his leadership on the Flawless Foundation Board. His championing of initiatives related to depression screening in primary care and in workplace mental health are groundbreaking, and his personal story is a powerful part of the #IWillListen campaign.

Of course, there are many others who join these visionaries in a growing community of mental health champions. I came away from this educational evening reflecting on the abundance in that room of leaders who are involved in innovative, diverse work in our field. If you haven't read it yet, CNN's Mental Wellness Warriors list offers another powerful line-up of all-stars who are making a difference.
Guess what?

It's raining effective advocacy and good news in the field of mental health. That is something to celebrate and love any week of the year.