University of Southern California: Professor Elyn Saks is co-winner of prestigious Pardes Humanitarian Prize

Throughout her career, Saks has written extensively on the intersection of mental health and law, and has received many honors, including a 2009 MacArthur fellowship, also known as a “Genius Grant.” The prestigious Pardes Humanitarian Prize was awarded to three renowned advocates for mental health, including Gould Professor Elyn Saks, director of the Saks Institute for Mental Health Law, Policy and Ethics. The prize is administered annually by the Brain and Behaviour Research Foundation, which funds scientific research to alleviate mental health issues.

“I am humbled and deeply honored to receive the Pardes Humanitarian Prize in Mental Health,” says Saks. “The Brain and Behaviour Research Foundation makes extraordinary contributions improving the lives of people living with mental illness, and advancing our understanding of mental health.”

According to a press release from the Brain and Behaviour Research Foundation, “Dr. Saks uses her position to reduce and eliminate stigma, and to make psychosis more approachable and understandable to others, bringing a wisdom that reflects both her experience and compassion.” The foundation praised Saks for directly contributing to eliminating the stigma surrounding psychosis.

The other two prize winners include scholar and author Kay Jamison Redfield and Charlene Sunkel, founder and CEO of the Global Mental Health Peer Network.

Saks is the author of the best-selling book The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness, a memoir that recounts her experience as a person living with schizophrenia and includes a first person account of transitioning into psychosis. The Brain and Behaviour Research Foundation says her book has “transformed our thinking about mental illness.”

As the founder and faculty director of The USC Saks Institute for Mental Health Law, Public Policy, and Ethics, Saks has used her position as a law professor and academic lawyer to advocate for the improvement, understanding, prevention, and treatment of psychiatric and mental illnesses. “I wholeheartedly share these goals with the foundation and hope that my own work at Gould may do the same,” says Saks.

Established in 2014, the Pardes Humanitarian Prize in Mental Health is awarded annually to an individual or organization who has made a profound and lasting impact improving the lives of people suffering with mental illness by advancing the understanding of mental health on behalf of the Brain and Behaviour Research Foundation. Recipients are chosen by a selection committee from nominations made from all over the world. The prize is meant to focus the public’s attention on the burden of mental illness on individuals and society, as well as the urgent need to enhance and expand mental health services throughout the world.

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