Neurocrine raises a new monument to mental health in pandemic resilience campaign

Artist Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada, commissioned by Neurocrine Biosciences, unveils "The Hug," a sculpture honoring those whose mental health suffered during the pandemic, at Lincoln Center in New York City. (Getty Images)

Neurocrine Biosciences has turned to the arts before to raise mental health awareness, and the latest iteration of its "Monumental Moments" campaign does it again.

For Mental Illness Awareness Week, Neurocrine unveiled a new, specially commissioned sculpture—"The Hug" by artist Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada—at Lincoln Center in New York City.

Rodriguez-Gerada and Neurocrine Biosciences presented the nearly 10-foot bronze sculpture Oct. 7 in honor of those whose mental health suffered during the pandemic. Members of the Me2/Orchestra, a classical music group composed of musicians with mental illnesses and their supporters, provided musical accompaniment.

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Known for creating large-scale artwork to raise awareness of environmental and social issues, Rodriguez-Gerada chose the idea of a hug because of the pandemic’s effect on basic human contact, as well as his observations reading #monumentalmoments postings on the Monumental Moments website.

“It's not a romantic hug, but a deep family love hug,” Rodriguez-Gerada said. “I think that both of those are quite important, but I wanted it to be more where you couldn't tell if it was mother or grandmother or father or son or daughter, it's just a group that ends up being very universal.”

Rodriguez-Gerada also made sure to incorporate the green ribbon, the symbol of mental health awareness, into two sides of the sculpture.

For David Boyer, Neurocrine's chief corporate affairs officer, Rodriguez-Gerada was an obvious choice after he saw the artist’s work, "Somos La Luz" ("We are the Light"). The massive mural in Queens, New York, honors Ydelfonso Decoo, M.D., a Latino pediatrician who died after contracting COVID-19 while working the front line.

“The way he goes about doing his work, I think fit really well with the kind of impression we were hoping to leave, the kind of feeling, we're hoping to inspire,” Boyer said. ”We were incredibly, incredibly grateful that he was willing to work with us.”

Neurocrine has tapped both music and large-scale arts in the past. In addition to work with the Me2/Orchestra last year, in 2019, it teamed with artists Ted Meyer and Armando Nunez to create outdoor art installations in San Diego during Psych Congress 2019 to fight the stigma surrounding mental illness.

“Our hope here is that we can create a platform and environment where this community’s stories can inspire and empower other people. Engagement is sort of our top-line objective for this week,” Boyer said. “If there's a follow-on benefit of more folks generally thinking about some of the unique challenges and experiences of the mental health community during the pandemic, I think that's an enormous positive as well.”

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Neurocrine’s Ingrezza, approved in 2017, treats tardive dyskinesia, a movement disorder caused by prolonged use of antipsychotics. The drug was lucky to have a few years' head start on the pandemic, with a 20% diagnosis rate for TD versus 3% in 2017. CEO and President Kevin Gorman said that last year's sales grew 34% as physicians adopted telemedicine tools and began to reopen. Its competition in this area is Teva’s Austedo.