By Janine Crowley Haynes
NEW YORK, N.Y. (June 15, 2015)—The Brain and Behavior Research Foundation (the Foundation) held its second annual New York Women’s Luncheon, Breaking the Silence on Mental Illness, at the Metropolitan Club. “The Women’s Luncheon is designed to pay tribute to those women who are willing to speak candidly and personally about mental illness and how they inspire others to speak out against the stigma from brain and behavior disorders,” states the Foundation’s President and CEO Jeffrey Borenstein, M.D. “Now it’s our turn to be proactive in breaking the silence,” says the Foundation’s New York Women’s Committee Co-Chair Carole Mallement. Addressing the topic of stigma and how to face mental illness without fear of judgment departs from the Foundation’s standard programs that focus on science and research. 100 percent of dollars raised for research are invested in grants leading to advances and breakthroughs in brain and behavior research to help better understand the causes and develop new ways to effectively treat brain and behavior disorders. Since its inception in 1987, the Foundation has raised $328 million to fund over 4,800 grants to more than 3,800 leading scientists at 518 universities and medical centers around the world.
Approximately 300 supporters were in attendance to listen to a conversational exchange between Editorial Director Ellen Levine of Hearst Magazines and Advocate, Author, Philanthropist Lee Woodruff. Levine received the first annual Media Award by the American College of Neuropsycho-pharmacology for highlighting mental illness in numerous articles published in Good Housekeeping. Woodruff discussed a family history of mental illness. She recalled, when she was younger, there were no real in-depth conversations or explanations as to why her mother was “in bed in a dark room under the covers.” Her father would simply say her mom was sad and needed to feel better.
Woodruff shared her personal struggle with situational depression that ensued after husband Bob Woodruff sustained a critical brain injury from a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2006 while reporting for ABC’s World News Tonight. Woodruff acknowledged the traumatic event took its toll on her own mental health. Woodruff described her situational depression as a secret sadness and that it came as an enormous relief to share her story. “There needs to be a national message of openness without shame or stigma attached,” states Woodruff. When Levine asked Woodruff what helped her to push through the secret sadness, Woodruff referred to the four Fs—family, friends, faith, and funny—mentioned in her book, In an Instant, wherein Lee and Bob Woodruff chronicle their inspirational family journey back to recovery.
Today, the Woodruffs are fully focused on giving back in a big way. Bob and Lee Woodruff founded the Bob Woodruff Foundation that has raised more than $20 million to help veterans successfully reintegrate into their communities and help veterans receive critical longterm care. The Bob Woodruff Foundation’s website mentions that, sometimes, injuries sustained can lead to a series of other issues — unemployment, depression, substance abuse, even suicide. “Our veterans deserve our full support,” states Woodruff.
Janine Crowley Haynes, Chappaqua resident and author My Kind of Crazy: Living in a Bipolar World