Most people are unaware that May is Mental Health Awareness Month. I too was oblivious to this, but made the enlightening discovery upon receiving an invitation to cover the 2019 V!brant Gala at Cipriani Downtown in New York City. The annual event produced by V!brant Emotional Health was both a reflection and celebration, honoring citizens from all backgrounds who commit to life-saving work and promoting mental health and wellness throughout society.
The V!brant Gala took place on Monday night, highlighting the three cornerstone objectives of their work — Share. Connect. Heal. For 50 years, V!brant has been at the forefront of promoting emotional wellbeing for both individuals and families through notable platforms such as The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, NYC Well and other crisis intervention services across the country.
This year’s elegant gala and auction were hosted by Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC News Chief Medical Correspondent and Author of, “Life After Suicide.” Dr. Ashton and I discussed her personal story on the red carpet, regarding her ex-husband – father of her children, who took his own life two years ago. I have now personally experienced the loss of two friends through suicide, and I found Dr. Ashton’s words particularly comforting in discussing how to deal with feelings of guilt for not having realized a loved one was in such a state of despair.
In one of the evening’s most emotional moments, actress and singer Gloria Reuben performed a beautiful piano and vocal rendition of Mariah Carey’s “Hero.” The performance was a heartfelt tribute to a member of Rueben’s family who as she explained to the audience, had taken his life a few years prior. As most Americans know Rueben primarily as an actress, she is also an accomplished pianist and vocalist who has toured with Tina Turner. It was so unexpected to hear Rueben sing, and with such a gorgeous voice that reminded me of the velvety vocal prowess of Vanessa Williams.
Dinner Chairs of the Vi!brant Gala included: Jennifer Ashley, Chief People Officer, iCapital Network; Kevin J. Danehy, Global Head of Corporate Development, Brookfield; and Cynthia Zirinsky, Emeritus Director, Vibrant Emotional Health; along with special guests: actress Stephanie Szostak (A Million Little Things), actor James Roday (A Million Little Things), actor Stephen Conrad Moore (The Bold Type), actress Alexis Floyd (The Bold Type) and others.
V!brant honors for 2019 went to the Creator and Executive Producers – DJ Nash, James Griffiths, Dana Honor, and Aaron Kaplan – of the ABC television series, “A Million Little Things” for their extraordinary vision and life-saving work in mental wellness. The visionaries behind this ABC family drama tell the compelling story of a group of friends who support one another and find healing after one of their close friends dies of suicide.
V!brant Board Member Charles P. Fitzgerald rounded out the list of honorees. The Founder and Senior Managing Partner of V3 Capital Management, L.P. was recognized for his dedicated service and generous philanthropy to V!brant and the mental health community.
The 2019 V!brant Gala is one that I feel so fortunate to have been invited to cover. All of their work is so important, but I was specifically drawn to their work with at-risk youth because of the vulnerabilities faced by the young people, especially within the LGBTQ demographic. That said, the organization aims to provide services and resources to everyone, from all ages and walks of life. I am now an ally to their cause, and I encourage everyone to learn more about what they do at Vibrant.org.