Stockbridge, MA–November 17, 2022–Nearly 50 years ago, in 1973, LGBTQ+ activists succeeded in getting the American Psychiatric Association (APA) to remove the diagnosis of homosexuality from the official classification of mental illnesses, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The fight that led to this landmark decision is chronicled in the acclaimed documentary CURED, which the Austen Riggs Center has just awarded the 2022 Austen Riggs Erikson Prize for Excellence in Mental Health Media.
Austen Riggs Center Medical Director/CEO Eric M. Plakun, MD, stated, “As a longtime and active member of the APA, I cannot overstate the importance of the film CURED, both for shining a light on mistakes made by the APA and for clearly illustrating the power of advocacy in setting things right, particularly for marginalized groups of people. Everyone should see this documentary.”
“We are deeply grateful to the Austen Riggs Erikson Prize jury for this recognition,” said Patrick Sammon, the co-director of CURED. “Our film chronicles a crucial shift in the relationship between the mental health profession and the LGBTQ+ community—a change that helped transform the social fabric of American society. This seismic shift remains profoundly relevant today as LGBTQ+ Americans continue the fight for dignity and equality.”
Added CURED co-director Bennett Singer: “At its core, our documentary makes the argument that treating mental illnesses with compassion and empathy is vitally important—and working to remove the stigma that remains associated with mental illness is essential—but pathologizing perfectly healthy human behavior only leads to mental health problems. As Gay Liberation activists put it in their demands to the APA in 1970: ‘There is no cure for that which is not a disease.’”
A virtual event to honor the 2022 prize recipients will be held on Thursday, January 12, 2023, and will include a free screening of excerpts from CURED, and a Q&A with the directors, film participants, and Riggs clinicians.
The prize is juried by a committee of Riggs clinicians and Trustees who considered more than 100 submissions in 2022. Past recipients have included cartoonist and graphic novelist Alison Bechdel; Black southern writer Kiese Laymon; New York Times best-selling author Neal Shusterman; writer and lecturer Andrew Solomon; the Boston Globe Spotlight Team; NPR’s Hidden Brain; and many others.
Until 1973, every gay person—no matter how well-adjusted—was automatically classified as mentally ill and in need of a cure. The documentary CURED takes viewers inside the campaign that led the American Psychiatric Association to remove the diagnosis of homosexuality from its manual of mental disorders in 1973. Combining eyewitness testimony with newly unearthed archival footage, the film reveals how a small group of activists, psychiatrists, and their allies achieved this unexpected victory. Described as “incisive” (Psychology Today
),“ a fascinating doc about doctors who took too long to heal themselves” (Hollywood Reporter
), and “one of the best documentaries of this or any year” (British Film Institute), CURED had its US broadcast premiere on PBS’ Independent Lens
series in the fall of 2021 and has garnered more than 20 awards and accolades, including a 2022 Emmy Award nomination. Through an ambitious outreach and engagement campaign, the film is reaching thousands of viewers in communities and classrooms. Outreach partners include the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Born Perfect, NYC Health + Hospitals, the Juneau Suicide Prevention Coalition, National Action Network, and the Texas Association of School Boards. A national tour of medical schools is under way, and a curriculum for use in high school history classes is being developed in partnership with History UnErased. Visit www.cureddocumentary.com
to learn more.
About the Austen Riggs Erikson Prize
The Austen Riggs Erikson Prize for Excellence in Mental Health Media recognizes a select group of media professionals, including journalists, writers, and others who create exemplary work that contributes to a deeper understanding of and greater public awareness about mental health issues and carries an award of $3,000.
About the Austen Riggs Center
The Austen Riggs Center is a leading psychiatric hospital and residential treatment program that has been serving adults since its founding in 1919. Within an open setting, patients participate in an intensive treatment milieu that emphasizes respectful engagement. Individual psychodynamic psychotherapy is provided four times a week by doctors on staff. The Erikson Institute for Education, Research, and Advocacy of the Austen Riggs Center studies individuals in their social contexts through research, training, education, and outreach programs in the local community and beyond. For more information, visit www.austenriggs.org
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Austen Riggs Center