Misha Kessler – The George Washington University

The 2013 Jerry Greenspan Student Voice of Mental Health Award is being presented to Michael Kessler, a senior at The George Washington University, for his work in reducing prejudice around mental health and advocating for suicide prevention awareness in his community.

As an attempt survivor, Michael’s personal experiences led him to become passionately involved in issues surrounding mental health. He was first introduced to awareness efforts on campus through an invitation to attend a GWU Active Minds chapter event, a student-run mental health awareness, education, and advocacy group.

He soon found himself serving on the Executive Board of the Active Minds chapter at GWU. From there, he got involved with student coalitions, organized community awareness events, and spoke publicly about mental health issues, specializing in suicidality with a focus on LGBTQ youth and other high-risk populations.

While training as a peer educator in resources for persons with mental illness, Michael produced a short film that visually depicts the impact of stigma. It calls for an end to the isolation and suffering experienced by those with mental illness.  The video quickly became viral in his community, observably increasing conversation around mental illness.

He was soon elected to the Executive Board of the Mental Health Association of Maryland, where he still serves. Additionally, Michael now interns at The American Association of Suicidology, where he contributes to the development of the National Center for the Prevention of Youth Suicide.

Michael is inspired by the vision that individuals may one day live in a society free from prejudice and discrimination, where everyone is accorded respect and compassion. He believes that achieving this vision is inherently rooted in education, awareness, and community solidarity. He hopes to help transform this world, creating the possibility of a better life for all individuals.

To watch Michael’s video, Reject the Silence, click here!

JED would also like to acknowledge our other two outstanding 2013 finalists:

  • Adam Moen, University of Minnesota
  • Bruce Easop, Princeton University

Learn more about the award or view previous winners.