HOPE 2009 Luncheon Honors Brooke Shields

On Monday, the Hope for Depression Research Foundation held its annual HOPE Luncheon and Seminar at 10 on the Park in the Time Warner Center. The organization funds cutting edge research in the field of depression and mood disorders.

Actress Brooke Shields, supermodel Veronica Webb, designer Adrienne Vittadini, social-staple and high-end art adviser Kim Heirston Evans (whose clients include Salman Rushdie and Kate Spade), and CNN Anchor Felicia Taylor attended the event. At lunch, two ladies tried to figure if they had indeed seen Tommy Tune across the room.

The lunch was on the tenth floor of the Time Warner Center, with views of the Manhattan skyline. The table settings, floral arrangements, arrangements and even bowls full of M&Ms were all a bright, hopeful yellow. The M&Ms even had the word “HOPE” stamped on them, as did the dessert plates (in chocolate writing). Iced tea was the beverage of choice, which seemed appropriated at an event that touched on substance abuse.

At the lunch, Brooke Shields was given the 2009 HOPE Award for Depression Advocacy. HDRF Founder and Chairman Audrey Gruss commended her on the work she has done to remove the stigma from depression and mood disorders. I was struck by Shields’ warmth and sense of humor. After a rather long introduction by Gruss, Brooke stepped up to the podium and said, “Thank you for making me sound much better than I am. [pause] Even thought I gave you the bio.” Then she quietly chanted to herself, “be humble, be humble, be humble.” Throughout her speech she had the audience alternately giggling and discreetly wiping away tears.

Shields, who wrote the best-selling memoir Down Came the Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression, spoke about her personal struggle with postpartum depression. (Shields is the mother of two daughters, ages 3 and 6). She talked about her own denial of her depression, even as it consumed life, and how it was only when she finally learned that it was a biological, chemical condition (Take that Tom Cruise!) that she sought the help that saved her.

CNN anchor Felicia Taylor also spoke, sharing moving words about her late mother who suffered from depression. Keynote Speaker Dr. Herbert Keber, Director of the Division on Substance Abuse at Columbia University, lectured on the relationship between substance abuse and depression among adolescents. As he spoke about the effects of marijuana, my eyes couldn’t help but drift to a group of ladies who wore their sunglasses indoors. Could they be hiding red eyes? Then I felt badly for even thinking that, even in jest. They were wearing Chanel after all.

Gruss’ goal was to make the event more than just “another lunch”. Instead, it aimed to  arm its attendees with the awareness and information necessary to become informed advocates of mental health research. In fact, the lunch followed a two-hour scientific seminar on depression, current research and treatment trends.

I left the Time Warner Center with a handful of M&Ms, a gift bag that could fit a small child and a newfound respect for Brooke Shields and the benefactors of the HDRF, who throw their time, weight and resources behind such a worthy cause.

To learn more, click here: Hope for Depression Research Foundation

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