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Actress Michelle Williams Speaks at Mental Health America Conference

Tuesday Jun 13, 2017

Mental Health America (MHA) will honor an impressive group of individuals, communications professionals and innovative programs at its 2017 Annual Conference, being held in Washington, DC on June 14-16. Throughout the three days MHA will present the 2017 Legislator Award, the Clifford W. Beers Award, the Innovation in Programming Award, the Media Award, the youth-focused mPower Award, and the George Goodman and Ruth P. Brudney Social Work Award.

They are pleased to announce that Grammy Award winning singer/songwriter, Broadway actress, inspirational speaker, and entrepreneur Michelle Williams is confirmed as a speaker for our 2017 Annual Conference: Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll.

Since her days of making hit after hit as a member of Destiny's Child, one of the best-selling female groups of all time, and then as a solo artist with four critically acclaimed albums, Williams has grown professionally and personally.

In 2003, Williams fell in love with the Broadway stage, after making her debut in the title role of the hit musical "Aida," succeeding Toni Braxton. Next, she appeared in a production of "The Color Purple," playing blues singer Shug Avery in 2007, followed by "Chicago" on Broadway and London's West End as chorus girl Roxie Hart in 2009. She then appeared in the stage play "What My Husband Doesn't Know" in 2011 and the national tour of the musical "Fela!" as Sandra Isadore in 2013, and reprised her "Aida" role last year at the Muny in St. Louis. Williams starred in Oxygen network's series "Fix My Choir" in 2014, as a mentor guiding choirs on their musical careers, and then served as a guest host on "The View" and "Meredith."

Public speaking has also become a major part of her life, and she is very passionate about it. She has spoken at events and forums across the country, captivating and rousing audiences, young and old. Last spring, she was a special guest speaker at a reception for Hillary Clinton, as well as the keynote speaker at the University of Notre Dame's "Lunch and Learn." Williams also moderated GRAMMY Pro's "Up Close & Personal" panel featuring Lalah Hathaway and other music artists.

Williams has also been outspoken about mental health, an issue that has personally affected her -- and one about which many in the African American community do not like to talk. Over the last few years, she has been very vocal and candid about her battle with depression, which she was able to overcome through her faith in God and therapy.

MHA is thrilled to have Michelle share her journey with us on June 14 at our Annual Conference in Washington, DC. She will speak during the afternoon plenary session at 4 p.m. Michelle will also be a special guest at the MHA Clifford Beers Society Reception later that evening.

The conference will also present MHA's 2017 Legislator Award to U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy, Congressman Tim Murphy, and Congresswoman Eddie Bernice-Johnson for their tireless efforts over the last two years to pass mental health reform. Last December, despite a polarizing Congress, they successfully led a bipartisan passage of the most comprehensive mental health systems reform legislation in more than fifty years.

"As a result of this legislation, we are laying a new foundation for comprehensive mental health services and supports beginning when most mental illnesses begin -- during childhood -- and continuing through the life span," said Paul Gionfriddo, MHA president and CEO. "This victory could not have been possible without Senators Cassidy and Murphy and Representatives Murphy and Bernice-Johnson."

MHA's Clifford W. Beers Award will be presented to mental health advocate Brandon Staglin. The Clifford W. Beers Award is presented annually to mental health consumers who best reflect the example set by MHA founder Clifford W. Beers in his or her efforts to improve conditions for and attitudes toward people living with mental health conditions.

Staglin is the Director of Marketing and Communications for Staglin Family Vineyard and One Mind Institute, and Board Director for One Mind and One Mind Institute. Brandon's recovery from schizophrenia makes him happy every day he can contribute to the health of others.

MHA's Innovation in Programming Award, which recognizes the continuing innovation and creativity of the MHA affiliate network in program development and implementation, goes to MHA of New York City. MHA-NYC is the first organization in the country to offer evidence-based online cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) with live telephone, text and chat supports. With this innovative program, MHA-NYC not only tackled the problems of delays in access to care but also the shortage of clinicians trained to deliver CBT for a range of common behavioral health conditions.

MHA's 2017 Media Award will be presented on June 15 during the Media Awards Luncheon, with emcee NBC-4 Washington anchor Doreen Gentzler. This year's recipients include:

  • Netflix and its remake of "One Day at a Time," for shining an important light on depression and post-traumatic stress;
  • Documentary filmmaker Ben Selkow for "Buried Above Ground," a film that explores the harrowing stories of three Americans living with these burdens of PTSD;
  • Journalist Jaclyn Cosgrove from The Oklahoman, for her year-long series "Epidemic Ignored";
  • Illustrator Gemma Correll for her impactful depictions of life with mental illness; and
  • David Solomon, Executive Producer at Pittsburgh PBS affiliate WQED, for his years of work developing compelling documentaries, including most recently "Before Stage 4: Confronting Early Psychosis."

    MHA's mPower Award goes to 17-year-old Nadia Ghaffari. A junior at Los Altos High School, Nadia is also the founder of the 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and the author of the children's book "Growing a Brain." Nadia was inspired to start a peer movement to build a community of compassionate teens and mental health activists who are educated on how to be well and prioritize wellness, after her own experience with aiding in the prevention of a close friend's suicide. acts as a global peer-to-peer forum where teens can interact with each other through videos, learn from each other's experiences, access a huge variety of professional resources, and inspire each other to stay hopeful and resilient.

    MHA's George Goodman and Ruth P. Brudney Social Work Award this year goes to Kate Mahoney, a licensed clinical social worker, currently serves as Executive Director of the Naomi Ruth Cohen Institute for Mental Health Education at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Mahoney's role involves delivering educational and skill-building sessions to youth and adults to promote mental wellness, providing support to individuals and families directly impacted by mental illness, and advocating to reduce stigma and discrimination against individuals grappling with mental health challenges.

    "We look forward to gathering in Washington, DC this June and celebrating these amazing award winners," concluded Gionfriddo. "These noteworthy awardees join an already impressive line-up of speakers and participants at this year's conference. With an unprecedented gathering of advocates, musicians, clinicians, and policy makers in the heart of the nation's capital, this conference is one not to be missed."

    For more information and to register for the Mental Health America 2017 Annual Conference, click


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