2017 Matt's Heroes
2017 Matt's Hero Award Winner: Rebecca Meshkani
Rebecca Meshkani, Class of 2017 Beverly Hills High School
The 2017 Matt’s Hero is Rebecca Meshkani, a gifted, quietly powerful 17-year-old graduating Beverly Hills High School senior + peer counselor.
Rebecca is President and Founder of the on-campus mental health club she named Embrace Your Beauty Mark Club (“Embrace your imperfections: they are your source of originality and strength”) to cultivate a stigma-free environment.
She is also President and Founder of the Active Minds Club to educate students about mental health skills.
Rebecca and her fellow club members have launched multiple creative mental health campaigns to alleviate stress and to provide resources to students on her BHHS campus.
Rebecca hopes to major in counseling at Santa Monica College. MSMF just helped Rebecca fulfill her dream of finding a youth health mental internship. MSMF worked with Lyn Morris, VP of Clinical Services at Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services, to create a first-ever teen-internship at Didi Hirsch for Rebecca, beginning this summer, and continuing through her years at Santa Monica College. MSMF and Didi Hirsch work together to encourage our city’s next generation of mental health professionals and we know that teens often prefer talking to other teens when they are experiencing mental health pain, so the internship provides specially informed teens to help their cohorts.
Neuwirth Counseling Team Chaired by Susana Recinos
One of three 2017 Matt’s Hero Award Winners is the Neuwirth Counseling Team: Susana Recinos, Monica Aguilar, Neftali Gutierrez, and Alfredo Larios at Alliance Neuwirth Leadership Academy, represented by Susana Recinos. Recinos and the Neuwirth Counseling Team created original and ongoing mental health programming to maximize the value of the MSMF presentations for her six hundred 9th-12th grade charter students.
The Neuwirth Counseling Team will share their original programming with other schools. A month in advance of the MSMF-sponsored “Send Silence Packing” Active Minds prevention installation, through a survey to the students, Susana + team were able to identify 40 children (7% of the student body) who were at risk for suicide. The students received urgent and on-going counseling and Susana developed a realm of extracurricular yoga, meditation, art, and cooking classes to offer her students healthy stress relievers. They created a Speak Up Reach Out Campaign and had a symbolic closing Balloon Release Ceremony in which students each placed the name of something they wished to release in a balloon and all the students simultaneously released the balloons.
2017 Matt’s Hero: Dana J. H. Pittard
Matthew Silverman Memorial Foundation awards a 2017 Matt’s Hero Award to Dana J. H. Pittard, a recently retired Major General who went to war on suicide at Ft. Bliss with 32 new programs when he was Commander. Under his command, the base went from having the most the suicides to the least. Dana Pittard radiates a rare and powerful combination of greatness and humility.
As a result of his decades of experience at West Point, on the battlefront and at Ft. Bliss, Dana has become a staunch proponent of mental health education in schools. Matt’s Hero Award Winner Dana Pittard and MSMF Founder Ron Silverman are dedicated to early, on-going mental education in schools as the frontline defense against youth suicide and are joining forces to advocate for the lifeline student programming.
The General Who Went to War On Suicide
A commander with a history of depression created a unique way to keep his soldiers from killing themselves
POLITICO Ben Hattem March 17, 2017
His solution had the hallmarks of a commander confronted with a stubborn enemy: decisive action and situational adaptability. Pittard aggressively expanded mental health services at the base. He increased the number of mental health staff, created new social spaces and nighttime services, treatment for substance abuse and post traumatic stress disorder. And Pittard made the services available to all soldiers—whether or not there was any reason to believe they were at risk of killing themselves—because he believed everyone was vulnerable to suicide.
His belief was rooted in a personal struggle. He later made public, in a radically un-Army-like moment, something that could have seriously jeopardized a career that some say was destined for the upper echelons of the military: that he had sought mental health care for depression. People who worked at the fort say Pittard’s openness made it easier for soldiers to seek treatment. “I admired him sharing that story,” said Jamie Spanski, a staff sergeant who was stationed at Fort Bliss from 2012 until she left the Army in 2015. “No matter who you are or what rank you are, we’re all just human beings and sometimes you need help.”