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Washington Post Series Addressing the Failure of America’s Mental Health System for Vulnerable and Suicidal Youths Named 2023 Recipient of Austen Riggs Erikson Prize for Excellence in Mental Health Media

Aaron M. Beatty, MA|
November 8, 2023
Stockbridge, MA–November 8, 2023–As the mental health crisis rages across the country, virtually no one is left unscathed or untouched. Often the most vulnerable bear the brunt and are left without the tools or resources to obtain the help they need. The 2023 recipient of the Austen Riggs Erikson Prize for Excellence in Mental Health Media–William Wan’s remarkable four-part series in the Washington Post, "Dying for Help: How America’s mental health system is failing mentally vulnerable and suicidal youths"–shines an important light on this troubling trend.
“William Wan’s compelling human stories of mental suffering are placed in the context of systemic challenges involving policies across the healthcare system, problems with access to treatment, and the burden of stigma and discrimination in marginalized groups. His expert reporting has led directly to policy changes in how mental health care is delivered and lends a strong voice to the need for active change in multiple systems of care,” remarked Jane G. Tillman, PhD, Director of the Erikson Institute for Education, Research, and Advocacy. “By awarding this prize to William, we seek to underscore that his reporting is an effective and indispensable form of public health education that highlights systems in need of attention, care, and change.”
The four parts in the series are:
Wan remarked, “I’m honored to receive this award from a place like Austen Riggs that’s done so much for those struggling with mental health, and I’m deeply humbled given the incredible journalists who have received this award in the past. Most of all, I’m so grateful to the people who shared their stories of suicide and mental anguish with me. When someone shares their most private struggles with you, it’s a privilege and also a responsibility. Because you know they’re doing it to help others feel less alone in their pain and to make a difference. I am in awe of the impact that can come from telling our stories—just one person deciding to share their experience with others.” 
Wan’s series was selected from more than 60 high-quality nominations by a jury including mental health professionals and those in the publishing industry. 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.
A virtual event to honor the 2023 prize recipient will be held on Thursday, January 18, 2023. Register here. 
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

John Zollinger
Austen Riggs Center
Director of Communications
Aaron Beatty
Austen Riggs Center
Communications Officer