I don’t like tooting my own horn, but I can’t resist doing it a little bit here. I recently received an award that meant a great deal to me. I received an ‘outstanding achievement award’ from three venerable institutions jointly, Columbia University, Cornell, and the American Psychiatric Association—for service, in my work with mentally ill adolescents, and the prevention of suicide. I have been engaged in that work through our foundation (The Nick Traina Foundation), since the death of my son Nick, by suicide, as a result of his having bi polar disease. I wrote a book to honor him, after his death, and share our experiences, and with the proceeds of the book, I established the foundation. We are also committed to the prevention of child abuse.
I don’t usually accept awards, because I don’t like giving speeches. When the kids were younger, I was busy with them at home, so I didn’t accept awards for my work, where I’d have to travel to other cities. And I’m a very shy person. The idea of standing up in front of a group of people and having to make a speech turns me to Jell-O. As I used to say, I’d rather cut my liver out with an ice pick than make a speech. That bad!! And if people give you an award, they expect a speech.
Since my son Nick’s death, I have given about a dozen speeches, or maybe more like 6 or 7, about mental illness or suicide prevention. The first speech I ever gave, on that subject, shortly after his death, was to the US Senate, about the prevention of teen suicide. I nearly fainted I was so terrified. But I got through it. My kids came to support me. It was really scary, but I was glad I did it.
So, I was honored by the three institutions I mentioned. They gave an event at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, and surrounded by my children and a few friends, I went to get the award. And as always, I was really nervous. They were very nice to me, and made a lovely speech about me. I choked up when I accepted the award and took one of my sons up to the podium with me, to give me courage. And I only said a few words to thank them. But I was so grateful and so touched and so honored. Receiving an award is humbling, I didn’t feel worthy of such an important honor. But it really touched me, and meant the world to me. It’s a very pretty crystal award and is now sitting on my desk. I am deeply grateful and very honored.