Twenty-one students, Two Teachers Honored at BrainDance Awards for Student Projects on Mental Illness

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Twenty-one students and two teachers were honored for their work highlighting the stigma of mental illness at the Institute of Living’s 16th annual BrainDance Awards on Thursday, April 25.

School/Teacher Award

  • Amanda Torres, Physical and Health Education, and Robert Bajoros, Health Education, Coginchaug Regional High School

Art Category

  • 1st place – Nicole Gonzalez, Grace Webb High School, “Repairing Hope”
  • 2nd place (tie) – Mackenzie Andrews, Saint Bernard School, “Raising Awareness” and Araiya Shah, Suffield Academy, “You Cannot Kill a Monster”
  • 3rd place – Cody Plourde, Bristol Eastern High School, “Boys Don’t Cry”

Academic Category

  • 1st place – Lena DeLaurentis, Julia Robert & Nicole Sanchez, Norwich Technical High School, “Reducing the Stigmas Associated with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder through Education”
  • 2nd place (tie) – Elena Blanchard, Coventry High School, “The Surmounting of Silence, Shame and Trauma in Sexual Assault Survivors” and Alexa Stinson, Coventry High School, “Gender Dysphoria: How to Eradicate the Stigma and Perpetual Marginalization”
  • 3rd place – Haley Bogle, Mirrissa Durfee and Madison Samokar, Norwich Technical High School, “Increase the Awareness and Decrease the Stigmas Associated with Anxiety”


Mixed Media Category

  • 1st place – Andrew Budge, Varakrit Chaisathaporn, Dominic Colangelo, Georgia Hannock and Eli Weiner, Suffield Academy, “Something Snapped”
  • 2nd place – Sarah Lynch, Saint Paul Catholic High School, “I Believe”
  • 3rd place (tie) – Hannah Chadeayne & Morgan Matos, Bristol Eastern High School, “Mental Health Matters, Pass it on!” and Megan Cooke, Glastonbury High School, “Chaos: seeing depression and anxiety through visual art”

The BrainDance Awards encourage high school students to gain knowledge about psychiatric diseases and develop a more tolerant and realistic perspective toward people with severe psychiatric problems. The competition also aims to promote students’ interest in careers in mental health care.

Awards and cash prizes were given to first, second and third-place finishers in the Art, Academic and Mixed Media categories. Additionally, two teachers were honored for their support of the BrainDance Awards and their work done to help stop the stigma of mental illness.

Awards were presented by Nancy Hubbard, LCSW, from the Institute of Living and Matcheri S. Keshavan, MD, from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Massachusetts Mental Health Center, and Harvard Medical School. The awards were followed by a panel discussion with mental health professionals and a Grand Rounds Lecture from Dr. Keshavan entitled, “Why is adolescence a period of risk for emotional brain disorders?”

Founded in 1822, The Institute of Living was one of the first mental health centers in the United States, and the first hospital of any kind in Connecticut. Located on 35 acres landscaped by Frederick Law Olmsted, The Institute of Living lies near the center of Hartford, Connecticut. Becoming a Division of Hartford Hospital in 1994, it remains one of America’s leading not-for-profit centers for comprehensive patient care, research and education in the fields of behavioral, psychiatric, and addiction disorders.

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