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Award-Winning Journalist Elizabeth Vargas to Moderate Community Conversation about Mental Health in West Hartford

Elizabeth Vargas (ABC/ Donna Svennevik) Submitted photo

Jewish Family Services and Tara’s Closet announce the third annual community-wide conversation surrounding mental health, scheduled for May 16 in West Hartford.


Dr. Laurie Santos. Submitted photo

To mark 2019 Mental Health Awareness Month, Jewish Family Services (JFS) and Tara’s Closet present “Embracing Possibility for Mental Health Awareness: Are you Happy?”

The conversation will be led by Yale Professor of Psychology Laurie Santos with special guest moderator A&E Investigates and award-winning longtime anchor at ABC News, Elizabeth Vargas. The evening will begin at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 16, on the campus of Kingswood Oxford School, 170 Kingswood Rd. in West Hartford, CT.

Dr. Laurie Santos currently teaches Yale’s most popular course, Psychology and the Good Life. Santos’ class covers what psychological research says about the things that make us happy and more importantly, how to put specific strategies into practice. Santos started the class to help students navigate stress, depression and other mental health challenges. The course hit a nerve well beyond Yale, prompting national media networks to interview Santos about her lessons.

Santos’ scientific research is widely published, and she and her work have been featured in numerous media outlets, such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, The New Yorker, New Scientist, Smithsonian Magazine, and Discover Magazine, as well as on History Channel, NPR, and NOVA. She was named one of Popular Science Magazine’s “Brilliant 10” and a TIME magazine “Leading Campus Celebrity,” and her TED Talk has well over a million views. Her numerous awards for science, teaching, and mentorship include the Stanton Prize from the Society for Philosophy and Psychology for outstanding contributions to interdisciplinary research.

“Adults really are thinking about the things they can do to live a better life and become a bit happier,” Santos told TODAY. “There is a good answer for how to do this in the science of psychology. We know a lot about the kinds of things  that really make us happy and stuff that doesn’t.”

Emmy Award-winning journalist Elizabeth Vargas has traveled the world covering breaking news stories, reporting in-depth investigations, and conducting newsmaker interviews. She is the host of “A&E Investigates.” She most recently co-hosted the hit news magazine show “20/20” and previously served as co-anchor of “World News Tonight,” anchor of “World News Tonight Sunday,” news anchor and frequent co-host on “Good Morning America,” correspondent for “20/20” and “Primetime Thursday,” and was the co-anchor of “Primetime Monday.”

With her signature candor and insight, Vargas will share her experience and bravely discuss how alcoholism has affected her life and career, and why she chose to publicly share her struggle with the disease and her ongoing recovery. In 2016, Vargas released her memoir, Between Breaths: A Memoir of Panic and Addiction. The book details her struggles with anxiety and alcohol, and tells a powerful story of healing and coping.

“Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood,” said Barbara Roth, Founder of Tara’s Closet.

“This year we decided to turn the conversation to what make people happy, because mental health is a very important component to one’s overall well-being. Scientific evidence suggests that being happy may have major benefits for your health, it helps combat stress and increases your life expectancy,” she added.

“I founded Tara’s Closet to honor the memory of my daughter Tara who suffered from depression and bi-polar disorder. Our goal is to break the ceiling on mental health because people are very much afraid to talk about it; it is crucial to openly discuss and normalize the conversation. We are very excited  to welcome Dr. Laurie Santos and Elizabeth Vargas who has been personally affected by anxiety and depression.”

Tickets for this event are available by calling Jewish Family Services at 860-236-1927.  Tickets can also be purchased online here. For more information please visit  www.jfshartford.org. Seating is limited and advance reservation are highly recommended. 

This event is sponsored by Tara’s Closet,  a JFS program whose mission is to bring to light the stigma of mental illness

About Jewish Family Services

In partnership with Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford and Jewish Foundation of Greater Hartford, the JFS mission is to enhance and strengthen quality of life through the Jewish tradition of caring and compassion. JFS Counseling, Education and Community Support programs serve the Jewish community AND the community at large. To learn more about Jewish Family Services, visit jfshartford.org

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  • I left West Hartford in 1953 for “the west”, after a most enjoyable period in my life. I played baseball there, soccer, was on High School dance committees, was expelled (briefly) from Hall, dated pretty girls there, delivered the “West Hartford News” there, etc., etc. So, some one please tell me the origin of “Blue Back” shopping center name. It is plopped right on home plate where so many brief wars were fought under the tutelage of Eric Norfeldt. Can any one help with the origin of the name?

    • Hi Robert! Blue Back Square is named for Noah Webster’s “Blue Back Speller.” Noah Webster was born and raised in West Hartford.

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