UNMC nomination leads to recognition for Special Olympics International's mental health contributions

Nov. 3, 2023, noon ·

Dr. Karoly Mirnics, director of the Munroe-Meyer Institute and a professor of psychiatry, biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. (Courtesy of UNMC)

Dr. Karoly Mirnics, the director of UNMC’s Munroe Meyer Institute, accepted the 2023 Pardes Humanitarian Prize for Mental Health from the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation on Oct. 27th in New York City.

Dr. Mirnics, who is also on the board of directors for the Special Olympics International, emphasizes the organization's approach to address the connection between physical and mental health.

“We started out as a sports organization, but we are much, much, more. And why? Because we saw the need to grow into other areas that our athletes need. From the policy all the way to health,” he said.

The organization's values and missions align closely with those of the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation, especially in focusing on the importance of destigmatizing intellectual and developmental disabilities and mental health disorders.

Mirnics says the award highlights the work of the organization's different programs such as Strong Minds that aims to promote emotional well-being and adaptive coping skills for individuals with intellectual disabilities. The mental health award was created in 2014 and carries an honorarium of $150,000. It is awarded annually to an individual or organization whose contributions have a profound and lasting impact in advancing the understanding of mental health and improving the lives of people living with mental illness.

UNMC’s Chancellor, Jeffery Gold, nominated the organization for the award and expressed in his nomination letter the efforts of these programs.

“Their efforts to promote inclusion and reduce stigma have helped to raise awareness about the mental health needs of individuals with intellectual disabilities and have contributed to a more accepting and inclusive society,” Gold wrote in the nomination.

Today the Special Olympics International is a global organization that serves more than 5 million children and adults in over 200 countries.