Austen Riggs Erikson Prize for Excellence in Mental Health Media Winners

Austen Riggs Erikson Prize for Excellence in Mental Health Media

Since 2010, the Austen Riggs Center has recognized a select group of professional journalists, writers, and media professionals who create exemplary work that contributes to the public’s understanding of mental health issues with a Prize for Excellence in Mental Health Media. From 2010-2016, the Erikson Institute hosted a colloquy at the Austen Riggs Center, curated by former Erikson Scholar Joshua Wolf Shenk, to honor the prize recipients. Past prize winners are listed below.



Hannah Dreier is a national reporter at The Washington Post. She previously worked at ProPublica, where she won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing for a year-long series on immigrants, gangs and mishandled law enforcement investigations. Before that, she was based in Venezuela for the Associated Press.


Kiese Laymon is a black southern writer, born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi. Laymon is currently the Ottilie Schillig Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Mississippi. Laymon is the author of the novel, Long Division and a collection of essays, How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America, and Heavy: An American Memoir. Heavy, winner of the Andrew Carnegie Medal, the LA Times Isherwood Prize for Autobiographical Prose and Audible’s Audiobook of the Year, was named one of the Best Books of 2018 by the Undefeated, New York Times, Publishers Weekly, NPR, Broadly, Library Journal, The Washington Post, Southern Living, Entertainment Weekly, San Francisco Chronicle, and The New York Times Critics

Director Stephen L. Garrett; producer Christopher McDonough; and Kelsey Arbuckle and Alexa Fults are the filmmakers behind Mine 21, a documentary about tragedy in a small coal town, the toll of trauma in a community, and finding a voice. 


John Green is the award-winning, #1 bestselling author of Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns, Will Grayson, Will Grayson (with David Levithan), and The Fault in Our Stars. He is a recipient of the Printz Medal, a Printz Honor, and the Edgar Award, and was selected by TIME magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. In his book Turtles All the Way Down, sixteen-year-old Aza confronts her roles as daughter, friend, and student while also living with her own troubling thoughts.

NPR’s Hidden Brain uses science and storytelling to reveal the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior. Hidden Brain began in 2012 as a regular series on NPR’s Morning Edition before launching as a podcast in 2015, and as a radio program in 2017. The show is now the #1 science podcast in the nation, and is heard on more than 200 public radio stations across the nation.

The show is hosted by Shankar Vedantam, NPR's social science correspondent. Throughout his career, he has been recognized with many journalism honors, including awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors, the South Asian Journalists Association, the Asian American Journalists Association, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association, and the American Public Health Association.


The Boston Globe Spotlight Team, comprised of reporters Maria Cramer, Scott Helman, Michael Rezendes, Jenna Russell, and Todd Wallack, and editors Scott Allen and Anica Butler, for their story “The San Antonio Way: How one Texas city took on mental health as a community – and became a national model,” part of the series, “The Desperate and the Dead.”


Benedict Carey is a 2016 winner of the Erikson Institute Prize for Excellence in Mental Health Media.Benedict Carey, a reporter covering brain and behavior topics at The New York Times. He has written pieces on the problems of replicating research studies in psychology, suicide in veterans and beautifully-crafted stories about people suffering from schizophrenia. More recently, he wrote a stunning series about mental health care in West Africa. He has also written three books: Island of the Unknowns, a math adventure; Poison Most Vial, a murder mystery involving forensic toxicology and How We Learn: The Surprising Truth about When, Where and Why It Happens


Neal Shusterman is a 2016 winner of the Erikson Institute Prize for Excellence in Mental Health Media.Neal Shusterman is a New York Times bestselling novelist, screenwriter and television writer. He has written over thirty novels for young adults, including the Unwind Dystology, which is currently in production as a feature film. His novel Challenger Deep, a stunning and insightful account of a teenager's schizophrenic breakdown, won the 2015 National Book Award for Young People's Literature. He is currently adapting Challenger Deep for 20th Century Fox as a feature film, and Tesla’s Attic with co-writer Eric Elfman for television.


Steve Silberman is a 2016 winner of the Erikson Institute Prize for Excellence in Mental Health Media.Steve Silberman, an award-winning science writer whose work has appeared in WiredThe New YorkerSalon and Nature. He is also the author of the bestselling book NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity, which published to great acclaim in 2015. Oliver Sacks called it "a sweeping and penetrating history . . . presented with a rare sympathy and sensitivity." Silberman's related TED talk, “The Forgotten History of Autism,” has been viewed more than a million times and translated into 25 languages.


Alison Bechdel, 2015 Erikson Institute Prize for Excellence in Mental Health Media Winner.Alison Bechdel is a cartoonist and memoirist, best known for her landmark comic Dykes to Watch Out For 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  [Alison Bechdel] the past with an effort to channel it into a creative present. This resonance between psychotherapy and Bechdel’s techniques became explicit in her second book, Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama, in which she tells of her conflicted relationship with her mother alongside two courses of psychotherapy and psychoanalysis. http://dykestowatchoutfor.com 

Former Erikson Scholar, Ellen Handler Spitz, PhD, reviews Alison Bechdel’s Are You My Mother? in Artcritical, and profiles her work in a 2014 issue of Contemporary Psychoanalysis: "Alison Bechdel's Graphic Memoirs on Page and Stage: 'I Wanna Know What's True.'”

Stephanie McCrummen, 2015 Erikson Institute Prize for Excellence in Mental Health Media Winner.Stephanie McCrummen is a reporter on the national enterprise team at The Washington Post, where she writes on mental illness among other subjects. Her features have included a profile of a Virginia state senator whose son attacked him with a knife and then committed suicide. She also chronicled the nearly three-year journey of a man with severe mental illness who sequestered himself in his house and would not leave, to the agony of his family. Previously, she was The Washington Post’s East Africa bureau chief, based in Nairobi, Kenya. She has also reported from Iraq, Egypt, Mexico and the Virginia suburbs. http://www.washingtonpost.com/people/stephanie-mccrummen 


William Todd Schultz, 2015 Erikson Institute Prize for Excellence in Mental Health Media Winner.William Todd Schultz is a psychologist and scholar who is a leading writer and editor of psychobiography, which has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years, owing largely to the work of Dr. Schultz. His own books—including An Emergency in Slow Motion: The Inner  Life of Diane Arbus, and Tiny Terror: Why Truman Capote (Almost) Wrote Answered Prayers—deftly blend psychology and narrative. A professor at Pacific University in Portland, Oregon, Schultz is also general editor of an Oxford University Press series called Inner Lives, the first and only book series devoted to the subject of psychobiography. Each title in the series focuses on a paradigmatic historical figure—subjects have included George W. Bush and John Lennon—using psychological theory and research to illuminate his/her life and work. Schultz’s most recent book is Torment Saint: The Life of Elliott Smithhttps://williamtoddschultz.wordpress.com/



Andrew Solomon is a recipient of the Erikson Prize for Excellence in Mental Health Media.Andrew Solomon, PhD, is a writer and lecturer on psychology, politics, and the arts, known for his lyricism, erudition, frankness about his own experience, and tireless research into the lives of others. Dr. Solomon’s most recent book, Far From The Tree, explores the relationship between parents and their exceptional children, including those with deafness, dwarfism, Down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, multiple severe disabilities; those who are prodigies, who are conceived in rape, who become criminals, and who are transgender. Named one of the ten best books of 2012 by The New York Times, it also won the National Book Critics Circle Award. Dr. Solomon’s previous book, The Noonday Demon, published in 2001, earned great acclaim for its thorough exploration of depression in personal, cultural, and scientific terms. It won the National Book Award, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and was named by the Times of London as one of the hundred best books of the decade. A contributor to The New Yorker and other magazines, Dr. Solomon has appeared on The Moth Radio Hour. His TED Talk on depression has earned nearly two million views. He lives in London and New York City. Hear Andrew Solomon's presentation at the 2014 Colloquy.


Scott Stossel is a recipient of the Erikson Prize for Excellence in Mental Health MediaScott Stossel is the editor of The Atlantic magazine and the author of the New York Times bestseller My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind. Given Stossel’s award-winning tenure at The Atlantic, and his many incisive essays and articles for leading publications, it came as a surprise to many colleagues that he has long been, as he writes in his book, “a twitchy bundle of phobias, fears and neuroses.” This revelation serves a broader agenda, as Stossel examines anxiety in all its manifestations, personal, historical, psychological, and neurological. The New York Times called the My Age of Anxiety “ambitious and bravely intimate: a ruminative book that often breaks into a thrilling intellectual chase.” Also the author of Sarge: The Life and Times of Sargent Shriver, Stossel lives in Washington, D.C. Hear Scott Stossel's presentation at the 2014 Colloquy.


David Finkel is a recipient of the Erikson Prize for Excellence in Mental Health MediaDavid Finkel is an investigative reporter on staff at The Washington Post. He is the author of The Good Soldiers, a chronicle of the 15-month deployment of the Second Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment to Baghdad in the Iraq War, and Thank You For Your Service, which follows some members of the same regiment, as well as family members and caretakers, as they navigate home life in the midst of grievous psychological wounds. The New York Times called The Good Soldiers “a post-heroic ‘Iliad’ for the Iraq war” and Thank You For Your Service “an equally cogent ‘Odyssey.’” Finkel’s honors include a Robert F. Kennedy Awards for Excellence in Journalism, a Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting, a J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize, and a shortlist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. He was a 2012 MacArthur Fellow. He lives in the Washington, D.C. area. Hear David Finkel's presentation at the 2014 Colloquy.


Jon Alpert and Ellen Goosenberg Kent are the co-directors of War-Torn: 1861-2010, an in-depth and historical examination of war trauma, produced for PBS.  Earlier work includes Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq.  These superb documentaries juxtapose first-hand accounts of battlefield disaster with the military’s scrambling effort to attend to these soldiers, change a culture, and carry on the national defense.   

Rachel Aviv is a journalist and essayist, whose work appears in The New Yorker and Harper’s, among other publications. Her portraits of the mentally ill are moving, educative and full of dilemmas at the personal, mental health and societal levels.  Her recent journalism about journalism in Newtown opens onto larger questions of violence in our society.   

Nick Flynn is the author of several memoirs, including Another Bullshit Night in Suck CityThe Ticking is the Bomb, and The Reenactments, within which he reacts and reflects upon Abu Ghraib, among other major episodes of contemporary conflict.  His journalism might be called “subjective;” where others bring a flashlight to their reporting, he brings a magnet.



Vaughan Bell, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and neuroscientist who works in the NHS as a clinician and at University College London as a senior clinical lecturer. He has written for the blog Mind Hacks for the last 10 years alongside Tom Stafford, PhD, where they discuss, the mind, brain and mental health. He is also a columnist for The Observer and has written for Wired UKSlateScientific AmericanThe PsychologistThe Times and The Guardian, among others. For more information, visit: www.vaughanbell.net.

Gary Greenberg, PhD, a practicing psychotherapist in Connecticut, writes about the intersection of science, politics and ethics for many magazines, include Harper'sThe New YorkerWiredDiscoverRolling Stone, and Mother Jones, where he's a contributing writer. Part memoir, part intellectual history, part exposé, his most recent book is Manufacturing Depression

Gregg Zoroya, a staff writer and reporter for USA TODAY, covers the “Home Front” beat, which focuses on the psychological impact of war. He has traveled into the Iraq and Afghanistan war zones 14 times, either to cover specific events, such as the first elections in both countries, or to write on topics such as the effect of multiple deployments on troops or advances in military medicine. His powerful stories on topics such as post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, joblessness, suicide and family struggles have earned him national awards and recognition. 



Jennifer Senior is a long-time staff-writer for New York magazine. Her work balances deep research into science and psychology with a nimble grasp of big, contemporary, popular concerns and questions. See, for example, her assessment of “happiness science” (“Some Dark Thoughts on Happiness,” July 9, 2006) and her introduction to the science of loneliness (“Is Urban Loneliness a Myth?” November 23, 2008). In an essay from 2010, she ventures that political thinking in the U.S. mirrors the mind-set of small-children (“The Benjamin Button Election,” October 31, 2010). Her cover story on the psychological lives of parents (“All Joy and No Fun,” July 4, 2010) is the basis of her first book. You can see a complete list of Senior’s articles here.

Carl Elliott, MD, PhD. A nomination from Alix Spiegel, our 2010 Erikson Prize winner, Dr. Elliot is a bio-ethicist and an author of magazine articles and books that deal with medicine, science and psychology. He is a leading investigator and critic of dubious pharmaceutical practices around clinical trials and journal articles. (See, for instance, “Playing Doctor,” The Atlantic, December 2010, on the ethical holes in the production of medical journals and “The Drug Pushers,” The Atlantic, April 2006, on the insidious influence of pharmaceutical reps). Dr. Elliott’s work also often digs into unsettling phenomena—and makes earnest efforts at contextualizing them. See for instance, “A New Way to be Mad,” The Atlantic, December 2000, on the choice of apparently healthy people to amputate their limbs and “Mind Game” from a recent issue of The New Yorker, on psychopathology. Elliot’s books include Better Than Well, an assessment of the practical, moral and spiritual problems posed by “enhancement technologies,” both psychiatric and physical. A positive review of the book is here


Karen Brown. Nominated by Julianne Hill, a Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Journalism Fellow, Brown is a staff reporter at WFCR, the NPR affiliate in Amherst, MA. Hill comments, “Karen has a rare ability to get people to open up about their private psychological experiences — but she is careful not to exploit the highly personal or painful. Instead, she allows those with mental illness to appear as the fully developed and complex people they are, and manages to deftly interweave their stories with scientific research and policy debates. The end result is usually a solid case for why mental health deserves more attention, more resources, and more compassion.” Brown’s pieces include: “A Mind of Their Own: Children with Bipolar Disorder,” an hour-long national radio documentary on three families navigating adolescence with the diagnosis of juvenile bipolar disorder; "A Burden to be Well: Sisters and Brothers of the Mentally Ill” — which aired in a 14 minute excerpt on NPR's Weekend Edition, taken from the full 30-minute piece; "Trauma and Recovery: A Cambodian Refugee Experience” on The Infinite Mind; and "Love, War, and PTSD: Anna and Peter Mohan". This two-part feature (Part One and Part Two) chronicles a young couple who are dealing with Peter's severe PTSD following his military tour in Iraq. According to Hill, Brown raises funds herself for many of these big projects, even as she covers the mental health beat for local and regional stories.


Erica Goode came to The New York Times in 1998 as the human behavior writer for the Science Department. In 2003, she became the health editor for Science Times and today she directs environmental coverage. A graduate of the University of Michigan, Goode received a master’s of science degree in social psychology from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Goode has also written and edited for U.S. News and World Report and the San Francisco Chronicle.  Most recently, her poignant account of suicides among returning soldiers illuminated the many dimensions of this growing tragedy.

Richard Simon, PhD, is the editor of Psychotherapy Networker, a National Magazine Awards winning journal. The magazine covers everyday challenges of clinical practice, while also offering perspective on the social issues, critical ideas and therapeutic innovations shaping the direction of psychotherapy. The Chicago Tribune has called Psychotherapy Networker one of the “50 Best Magazines in America.”

Alix Spiegel, a reporter with the National Desk at National Public Radio, has reported on everything from the mental health consequences of Hurricane Katrina to psychotherapeutic approaches to transgender children. A graduate of Oberlin College, Spiegel was a founding producer of the public radio show This American Life. She has also written for The New Yorker magazine and The New York Times.