Stomping out stigma

PSC staff

Jason Schiffman (right), director of clinical psychology, and Naomi Tabak (fourth from left), director of the new Psychological Services Center, stand in front of the clinic with Ph.D. students who are providing mental health services to the public. Below photo is of some of the attendees at a recent fundraiser for the clinic.

Fundraiser nets more than $13,000 for new Psychological Services Center

Shannon Morris’ battle with mental illness led her parents, Diana and Peter Morris, to organize a fundraiser to “stomp out” the stigma associated with psychological disorders. 

“Shannon was a voracious reader and an incredible artist and musician who struggled with mental illness for seven years,” her mother shared at the Feb. 1 fundraiser in Newport Beach. “She fought hard but she just wasn’t able to win and she took her life by suicide at age 21. The devastation that mental illness causes, emotionally and financially, drains families. It’s just awful.”

So, in Shannon’s name, the Morrises decided to help others by telling her story and giving to worthy causes in an effort to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness. Each donor at the event received a framed print of artwork created by Shannon and helped raise more than $13,000 to benefit the School of Social Ecology’s new Psychological Services Center (PSC), which is now open to the public and accepting referrals for individual therapy.

The center is the official training clinic for doctoral students in clinical psychology at UC Irvine. Under the supervision of licensed psychologists, PSC trainees provide low-cost, evidence-based psychotherapy for individuals 18 and older.

“We also plan to expand our services in the near future to provide therapy for children and adolescents,” said Jason Schiffman, professor of psychological science and director of the clinical psychology program. “Quality mental health care is sorely needed and often out of reach for many residents of Orange County due to the high costs of services. The UCI PSC offers in-person (located in the Social Ecology 1 building on campus) and online therapy that will increase accessibility to the gold standard treatments for depression, anxiety, trauma and stress-related disorders, and other mental health concerns.”

Naomi Tabak is the center’s director. She has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Miami, and her undergraduate degree in biomedical ethics from Brown University. Her clinical expertise is in evidence-based treatments for varying mental health concerns, including depression, anxiety, and psychosis-spectrum disorders.

“All of our clinical care is provided by doctoral students who are working to get their Ph.D.s in clinical psychology,” Tabak said. “In addition to being totally dedicated to providing the best care possible, they’re also at the cutting edge of research in the understanding, prevention and treatment of mental health concerns.”

Schiffman agreed.

“We have brilliant students, similar to Shannon in terms of talent, compassion, and energy to serve others,” he told those in attendance at the fundraiser. “Thanks to the commitment of the School of Social Ecology, under the leadership of Dean Jon Gould; the supervision and direction of Clinic Director Dr. Naomi Tabak; and all donations generated through this event, our students will be able to offer everyone, regardless of income, access to the best therapy in the world right here in Orange County. These students aren’t just therapists in training, they are tomorrow’s leaders in mental health. Investing in them is an investment in the mental wellness of our community and world.”

No one is immune “from the sting of mental health challenges in the context of a system that is in need of repair,” Schiffman said, adding that he lost his father to suicide in 2015.

“Part of the solution for loved ones like Shannon, my father, and countless others is creating opportunities that we are potentiating right now through this fundraiser,” he said. “The importance of this commitment is hard to overstate, cutting across all walks of life. No amount of resources or access to connections can keep us insulated from challenges to mental health. Threats to mental wellness do not discriminate. Families who are already living in the margins live perilously at risk of falling further; and all too often, those with means lose everything in their self-sacrificing attempt to do anything for their loved one. Our clinic and our students are committed to stopping this downward spiral for everyone.”

That’s exactly why the Morrises chose the PSC as the fundraiser beneficiary.

“My daughter took her life four years ago and I’ll never be the same, so today what we’re doing is helping others who struggle find help and get through in a healthy way,” Diana Morris said. “Our hope is that PSC will make an impact to help those who struggle and help families who get swept up in the storm of mental illness with their loved ones.”

Schiffman's remarks at the fundraiser can be viewed on YouTube.

For more information or to make an appointment, call the PSC at 949-824-5411 or visit the website

Donations for the PSC still are being collected. To make a donation, visit this website.

Mimi Ko Cruz