By Sandy Cohen
WITH A HEADLINING PERFORMANCE by singer-songwriter Dolly Parton, the Friends of the Jane and Terry Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA and the UCLA Stewart and Lynda Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital Board of Advisors presented the Wonder of Women Summit— #WOW2021: Whole Health Includes Mental Health—to raise awareness and reduce the stigma of mental illness.
Hosted by actress-writerproducer and Resnick board member Lisa Kudrow, the online fundraising event took place via Zoom on May 13, 2021, and featured writerdirector- actress Mindy Kaling, writer-director Ava DuVernay and Major League Soccer great Landon Donovan, who spoke with UCLA Health experts about depression, anxiety and the importance of discussing emotions and mental health.
“We need to not only talk about it, but listen, with kindness and compassion,” said Kudrow. “That’s how we’ll erase the stigma of mental illness, so people will reach out and get the help they need.”
Johnese Spisso, MPA, president of UCLA Health, CEO of the UCLA Hospital System and associate vice chancellor of UCLA Health Sciences, opened the 90-minute event that also honored Vicky Goodman, founder and president of the Friends of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, and Dr. Nancy Glaser, founding chair and an inaugural member of the Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital Board of Advisors. Kaling, who talked about the challenges of parenting during the pandemic with Dr. Robin Berman, associate professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences and author of Permission to Parent: How to Raise Your Child with Love and Limits, said she has a history of social anxiety that affects her approach to parenting.
“Anxious people have a hard time helping kids to tolerate uncertainty because they have such trouble tolerating uncertainty,” Kaling said. As a single mom juggling multiple Hollywood projects, Kaling said she’s become “comfortable with transitioning among different panics,” be they child-related or workoriented. “I used to spiral from them a lot more,” she said, adding that she’s gotten better at “letting the transitioning of panics happen, but not riding the wave of them.”
For UCLA alumna DuVernay, resilience and positive outlook come from “a deep and abiding faith in a power higher than myself, and having been taught to embrace and love life as its own living, breathing entity.” Raised to appreciate community and connection with other human beings, DuVernay said this has sustained her during professional and personal challenges. She also began meditating during the quarantine, has a robust gratitude practice and takes solace in art in its many forms.
Celebrated as one of the greatest United States men’s soccer players, Donovan said he’s faced depression many times throughout his life. He’s spoken publicly about these struggles in recent years in the hope of encouraging more openness about mental health in professional sports. Donovan told Dr. Michelle Craske, director of the UCLA Anxiety and Depression Research Center, that for him, managing depression is about connection and compassion. When he’s feeling low, he talks to his wife about it, which he said almost always lightens his mood. Meditation also helps bring him back into the moment and away from swirling negative thoughts. “I think part of the problem is that people aren’t aware that this is depression they’re feeling,” he said.
“We’re taught from an early age not to show emotion.” In his big picture, idealistic view of the world, he hopes that “we can get to a place where people are just OK expressing themselves without judgment.” Parton, who quipped that she thought “WOW” stood for “Weird Old Women,” closed the show with a performance of her 1977 track “Light of a Clear Blue Morning.” The event raised more than $780,000 for advancing psychiatric research and clinical innovation at UCLA.
Sandy Cohen is a senior writer in UCLA Health Communications.
For more information, contact Lauren Bayans at: 310-560-4287.