On Wednesday, November 12, 2014, Hope for Depression Research Foundation (HDRF), the leading non-profit dedicated solely to advanced depression research, held its Eighth Annual HOPE Luncheon Seminar.
Focusing on the topic of “Depression in Children and Adolescents,” the event honored acclaimed screenwriter and director David O. Russell and the First Daughter of New York, Chiara de Blasio. HDRF Founder and Chair Audrey Gruss presented each with the 2014 HOPE Award for Depression Advocacy. Ms. de Blasio was unable to attend due to school commitments, so First Lady of New YorkChirlane McCray accepted the award on her behalf.
Chuck Scarborough was Master of Ceremonies, and introduced the Chair of HDRF’s acclaimed Depression Task Force, Dr. Huda Akil, who defined depression as a “malignant sadness” and said “that although sadness is a part of life, when it gets out of control it can kill.” Following Dr. Akil, each DTF member – Dr. Helen Mayberg, Dr. Josh Gordon, Dr. René Hen, Dr. Eric Nester, Dr. Bruce McEwen and Dr. Michael Meaney – spoke on the significance of their unique collaboration and how their individual laboratories are each executing a part of an unprecedented research road map that they developed together. Scarborough then commented that “the combined IQ of this task force is probably higher than the national deficit,” resulting in a ripple of laughter. A video of Mark, a 12-year-old boy who has suffered from debilitating depression was then screened. The seventh grader spoke about his diagnosis and treatment, and said how he had learned “it was OK to be yourself.”
Dr. David Brent, Chief of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburg, shared the latest information about the causes, treatment and prevention of depression in children and teens before waiters cleared plates and served a chocolate mousse for dessert emblazoned with the word, ‘Hope.’ HDRF Executive Director Louisa Benton then introduced Andy LaCoppola, a high school band director from Johnstown, New York, who spoke about how he responded so strongly to an HDRF print ad that he and his students are planning a fundraising event to benefit the Foundation.
Audrey Gruss then introduced the HOPE Award for Depression Advocacy and welcomed Mr. David O. Russell to the stage as an “artist, trailblazer and advocate.” Mr. Russell spoke personally about his family struggles with depression and said “he wants to show that depression doesn’t have to be a place of darkness, but a place of joy, love and laughter” before returning to his table to a standing ovation. Following this, Mrs. Gruss introduced the second honoree, Chiara de Blasio, as a shining example of somebody who, with proper diagnosis and treatment, is leading a full and fruitful life. A moving video was shown of Chiara speaking about her experience with depression and substance abuse. Chirlane McCray accepted the award on her daughter’s behalf. Mrs. McCray read a poignant letter Chiara had written for the occasion and said how proud she was of her daughter for managing her recovery and how “Chiara is an inspiration to us all.”
Mrs. Gruss then announced a new research grant for the DTF established by William Flaherty in honor of his son Christopher William Flaherty, and announced grants by the Paulson Foundation and the LeFrak Foundation. She then requested that the Co-Chairs of the Luncheon stand and be recognized.