The Riggs Blog

Alison Bechdel - Erikson Institute Prize for Excellence in Mental Health Media Winner

On Saturday, June 27, from 1:00-4:00pm, the Erikson Institute of the Austen Riggs Center honors this year’s three recipients of the Erikson Institute Prize for Excellence in Mental Health Media at a Media Colloquy. The 2015 recipients are: 

  • Alison Bechdel: Eisner Award winner, MacArthur “genius” grant recipient and author of the graphic memoir, Fun Home, the Broadway adaptation of which was shortlisted for the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, earned 12 Tony Award nominations and won five Tony Awards, including Best Musical. 
  • Stephanie McCrummen: reporter at The Washington Post whose features on mental illness and other subjects have included a profile of a Virginia state senator whose son attacked him with a knife and then committed suicide.
  • William Todd Schultz, PhD: psychologist and scholar who is a leading writer and editor of psychobiography. He has written about photographer Diane Arbus, writer Truman Capote and musician Elliot Smith among others. 

This week, we will take a closer look at Alison Bechdel. 

Alison Bechdel, 2015 Erikson Institute Prize for Excellence in Mental Health Media WinnerBechdel is a cartoonist and memoirist, best known for her landmark comic Dykes to Watch Out For (http://dykestowatchoutfor.com/) and for her two illustrated memoirs. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic focuses on the author’s complex relationship with her father, who died in an accident that was probably suicide. The book is a riveting and clear-eyed account of a gifted and troubled man—and the way that an emotionally cold but aesthetically rich environment shaped the artist herself. Like psychotherapy, the book directs its attention to the truth of the past with an effort to channel it into a creative present. In her second book, Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama,  she tells of her conflicted relationship with her mother as she describes alongside two courses of psychotherapy and psychoanalysis.  She is also known for the Bechdel test, an indicator of gender bias in film.

She is the recipient of numerous awards and honors including a 2014 MacArthur "genius" award, Mellon Residential Fellowship for Arts and Practice at the Richard and Mary L. Gray Center at the University of Chicago and the 2012 Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement from Publishing Triangle.

In April of 2015, the Broadway musical adaptation of her book Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic earned 12 Tony Award nominations and won five Tony Awards, including Best Musical. The play was a Critics’ Pick of both The New York Times and New York Magazine, who named it “The Best Musical of the Season”.

You can read a review of Bechdel’s graphic memoir Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama by former Erikson Scholar, Ellen Handler Spitz, PhD and a piece Dr. Handler Spitz wrote for Contemporary Psychoanalysis, “Alison Bechdel's Graphic Memoirs on Page and Stage: ‘I Wanna Know What's True’.”

The Erikson Institute is delighted to honor Alison Bechdel with the 2015 Erikson Institute Prize for Excellence in Mental Health Media. 

For more information on the Media Colloquy, please visit: http://www.austenriggs.org/2015-Erikson-Prize. Continuing education credits offered to mental health professionals. This event is free and open to the public. Seating is limited; advance registration is recommended. To register, please call [413] 931.5230 or email: samantha.blache@austenriggs.net.

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