INDIANAPOLIS, May 2 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Eli Lilly and Company is proud to honor six inspiring winners at the 10th annual Welcome Back Awards ceremony in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, May 3. For the past decade, the Welcome Back Awards has recognized individuals for their outstanding commitments to mental health, donating nearly half a million dollars to not- for-profit organizations on behalf of program honorees.
"These honorees are breaking new ground in the field of depression; from providing mental health guidance for victims of Hurricane Katrina to bringing postpartum depression education to life, these winners tackle mental health issues from the ground up," said Rakesh Jain, M.D., Welcome Back Award committee member and director of psychiatric drug research at R/D Clinical Research Center in Lake Jackson, Texas. "Each of the winners is a pioneer, bringing depression awareness to their individual communities and the country at large."
This year, in celebration of the program's 10th anniversary, a special "Person of the Decade" award was created to honor a previous winner whose work continues to positively impact the depression community.
"I was on the verge of giving up when I received a life-changing call, informing me I won a Welcome Back Award," said Rory White, founding manager of the Skid Row Lamp Art Project in Los Angeles and a 2004 honoree, who was selected this year by an independent committee of experts as the Welcome Back Award Person of the Decade. "Bringing validation to programs like mine, the Welcome Back Awards has helped create a legacy that will work to banish the stigma of mental illness for years to come," White said
Although White's work with the Skid Row Lamp Art Project is the most rewarding endeavor of his life, securing funding and recognition for this high-level art program serving Skid Row homeless individuals with depression and other mental illnesses, had seemed an insurmountable task. Fortunately, that phone call was the sign he needed to persevere. Now, four years later, White continues providing opportunities for the homeless and mentally ill on Los Angeles' Skid Row to achieve successes in their own lives. His Welcome Back Award became the first in a long line of prestigious awards granted to the art project. In addition, paintings from the art project are being used in the filming of the major motion picture, "The Soloist," which dramatizes the life of a Julliard-trained cellist who became homeless in Skid Row because of his mental illness. The Skid Row Lamp Art Project will also be the focus of a feature length documentary, "Ashes and Roses."
Lilly established the Welcome Back Awards in 1998 to fight the stigma associated with depression and to promote the understanding that depression is treatable. Each year, an independent panel of national mental health leaders recognizes five individuals for their outstanding achievements, and Lilly awards donations ranging between $10,000 and $15,000 to the not-for-profit organization of each winner's choice.
The 2008 Welcome Back Awards honorees are:
Lifetime Achievement: Mary Jo Codey, West Orange, N.J.
Mary Jo Codey's personal experiences with postpartum depression during both her pregnancies opened her eyes to the impact that limited knowledge and understanding of postpartum depression had in her community and throughout her state. As the first lady of New Jersey, Codey seized the opportunity presented by her husband's 14 months as governor from 2004 to 2006 to bring attention to the condition through public appearances and interviews. She courageously detailed her experiences with an illness that many find difficult to understand. In addition, Codey played a key role in developing, and served as spokesperson for, a widely successful statewide postpartum depression education campaign, "Recognizing Postpartum Depression: Speak Up When You're Down." She also inspired New Jersey's groundbreaking Postpartum Depression Screening and Education law. On the national level, Codey has lobbied on Capitol Hill in support of legislation designed to support research and education relating to postpartum depression and psychosis and provide support services for sufferers.
Psychiatry: Margaret Spinelli, M.D., New York, N.Y.
Margaret Spinelli has been passionate about solving the problems of those around her since she was young. An inherent desire to help others led her to a career in nursing. While working with impoverished women at a Brooklyn clinic, Spinelli became interested in learning more about the mental health of expectant mothers. Now considered a leading expert in the field of perinatal psychiatry, Spinelli has been touring the world, lecturing and teaching on the subject for the past 20 years. Her groundbreaking work has focused on researching and evaluating women who have committed infanticide due to postpartum mental disorders, and she has performed a significant amount of pro bono work for women with psychiatric illnesses. Spinelli continues to find her work not only rewarding, but also therapeutic as she recognizes that for every mother she treats, there is a child (or children) who benefits.
Primary Care: JoAn Hopkins, B.S.N., Loveland, Colo.
For more than 30 years, JoAn Hopkins has treated depression in the wake of disasters, helping victims and their families to cope with both the physical and mental traumas they've incurred. Having served onsite as a Red Cross relief volunteer for dozens of disasters, including Hurricane Katrina and the Pentagon on 9/11, Hopkins has brought her mental health service skills to people all across the nation. While Hopkins ensures that the basic needs of victims are met -- such as food, water and shelter -- she also understands the unseen needs that can often make the difference between a survivor's spiral into a major depression or one day feeling strong enough to reach out for the mental health lifeline that stigma and shame and other pressing needs often overrule. Fortunately, Hopkins' approachability and compassion give disaster survivors and relief workers a welcoming introduction to mental healthcare provision -- keeping the door open for them to walk through and acknowledge and accept help when they are ready to receive it. When Hopkins is not on the front lines of disaster relief, she provides mental health services to the chronically mentally ill in Colorado through her work as a nurse at the Larimer Center for Mental Health.
Community Service: Jean and Doug Richards, Jamesport, N.Y.
Jean and Doug Richards treated patients as nurse and doctor respectively for more than 40 years, but after losing their eldest daughter to schizophrenia in 1987, they determined that patients living with mental illnesses -- and their families -- often need more than the help of a medical professional. This inspired them to facilitate a weekly support group called Relatives of the Mentally Ill, or ROMI, to help other families in their community who were in need of support. The group provides education and understanding to members in and around their Long Island community. Weekly meetings feel like family dinner table discussions, offering an informal and comfortable setting for members to share stories and realize they are not alone, no matter how isolated they may feel. Although the couple have since retired and are now both close to 80 years old, they continue their mission above and beyond their weekly meetings by writing encouraging letters, sending care packages and cooking and delivering meals. For families feeling isolated, scared and sometimes hopeless when faced with the mental illness of a loved one, these examples of personal kindness are a salve for healing hearts and minds.
Destigmatization: Henry Acosta, M.S.W., Mercerville, N.J.
Henry Acosta's personal struggle with depression while growing up in a tough area of New Jersey, combined with his family's own history and struggles with the illness, brought him face to face with the disparity of care among Hispanics with mental illness. Acosta has seen the confusion that reigns in the wake of a suicide attempt. He has seen the difficulties in finding appropriate care. He had to translate his own treatment plan into English to help his parents understand his own condition to enable them to help their own son. Simply, Acosta knew that change was necessary for survival. As a result, it became his life mission to break down barriers to care for all minorities. Today, as the executive director of the National Resource Center for Hispanic Mental Health, Acosta is the driving force behind educational programs, public service announcements, media campaigns and legislation to bring appropriate and relevant care to the Hispanic community in his home state and across the country. As a direct result of his programming, statistics in New Jersey show that Hispanics with mental illness are using more public services and less costly emergency and crisis care than before; changes that will, hopefully, be seen nationwide thanks to Acosta's passion and dedication.
"For the past decade, the Welcome Back Awards has been honoring individuals in the depression community who have challenged the status quo by designing, developing and facilitating programs that bring awareness to the condition and relief to those who suffer from it," said John Hayes, M.D., vice president of Lilly Research Laboratories and global brand development team leader of neuroscience, Eli Lilly and Company. "It is important for Lilly to recognize these unique voices in the depression community as a way to inspire them to continue their good work and promote recovery. I am honored to present Welcome Back Awards, now in its tenth year, to these admirable individuals."
Nominations for the 2009 Welcome Back Awards
Nominations for the 2009 WBA may be submitted by anyone wishing to be recognized for his or her outstanding achievements in the depression community or wishing to recognize someone else. For more information, call 800-463-6440 or visit www.welcomebackawards.com.
Lilly, a leading innovation-driven corporation, is developing a growing portfolio of first-in-class and best-in-class pharmaceutical products by applying the latest research from its own worldwide laboratories and from collaborations with eminent scientific organizations. Headquartered in Indianapolis, Ind., Lilly provides answers - through medicines and information - for some of the world's most urgent medical needs. Additional information about Lilly is available at www.lilly.com.
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SOURCE Eli Lilly and Company