BrainDance Awards Banner

The Institute of Living/Hartford Hospital is sponsoring an academic and art competition designed to decrease the stigma of mental illness.

The BrainDance Awards encourage students to gain knowledge about psychiatric diseases and develop a more tolerant and realistic perspective toward people with severe psychiatric problems. The competition also aims to promote students’ interest in careers in mental health care.

To receive a BrainDance Award, a student must submit either an academic or art project on themes related to severe mental illness. The projects can be in any format, including research studies, reviews, essays, paintings, poems, or short stories.

Students can choose to compete in either the art or academic competition. An award of $1000 will be given to the best overall submission. Awards up to $1000 may be given to the best projects. Students' submissions in the art and academic competitions are judged separately.

BrainDance Awards Celebration

All applicants, their teachers, families, and classmates will be invited to a research day hosted by The Institute of Living on May 23, 2024. This day is designed to be an educational extension opportunity. It will include a lecture by a national expert on mental illness, an awards presentation, a visit to a museum on the history of mental health care, and a tour of a neuro-imaging research center. The overall winner and the first-place winners in the art and science categories will present brief lectures summarizing their projects.

All other applicants will be encouraged to present a poster describing their project. The student lectures and poster presentations are designed so that all participants can cite their BrainDance projects on future school or job applications.

The awards are coordinated by: Melissa Deasy, LCSW, and Godfrey Pearlson, M.D., Director, Olin Neuropsychiatry Research Center.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do I Apply?

1. Complete the online submission form and submit it with your project via email to

2. If you prefer to submit your project by mail:

  • Complete the submission form and indicate on the form that you are submitting the project by mail.
  • Mail the copy of your project and completed submission form to:
    David Krause, Family Resource Center 
    The Institute of Living, Massachusetts Cottage 
    200 Retreat Ave 
    Hartford, CT 06106
  • If the project is difficult to copy (for example: a sculpture), please contact us to make other arrangements.
  • Please make sure your name and the name of your school are written on your submission form and project.
  • If 2 or more students are working on a project together, please complete only one submission form (not one for each student). There is space on the submission form to list all the students.

3. The submission deadline is March 13, 2024.

How Are Projects Judged?

The intent of the BrainDance Awards is to encourage students to complete projects related to severe mental illness. The projects will be judged by expert clinicians and researchers in the field. Projects on any theme related to severe mental illness will be considered for an award. While we are interested in projects related to the stigma of mental illness, submissions that do not deal directly with stigma, but show a high quality of work may receive high ratings.

Projects submitted to the art competition will be judged based on their ability to demonstrate the student's technical artistic ability and the student's empathy with persons who have mental illness.

Projects submitted to the academic competition will be judged based on originality, accuracy of information, scientific/academic rigor and relevance to the issue of fighting stigma, as follows:

  • Fighting stigma - such projects will get higher scores if they address the issue of the stigma of mental illness or it is clear from the submission that the applicant developed a more realistic appreciation of people with severe mental illness. If a student chooses to submit a project that does not relate to stigma, they will be rated only on scientific/academic rigor, originality and accuracy. No points will be subtracted because they do not deal with the topic of stigma.
  • Scientific/Academic Rigor - projects will get higher scores if sound scientific methods are used and data are presented. If data are not presented and analyzed, projects will receive higher scores If multiple sources of information and used and cited.
  • Originality - projects will get higher scores if there is evidence of original thinking
  • Accuracy - submissions will receive higher scores if the projects are factually accurate
BrainDance Winners

Check out all the winners of the BrainDance Competition!

BrainDance Resources