Dutch Professor Van Voren Adopted Lithuania
Robert van Voren, born in Montreal, Canada, is a professor of Soviet and Post Soviet Studies at Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas, Lithuania, and at Ilia State University in Tbilisi, Georgia. He is also Director of the Andrei Sakharov Research Centre on Democratic Development in Kaunas and Chief Executive of the international foundation Human Rights in Mental Health-Federation Global Initiative on Psychiatry (FGIP). He has lived in Lithuania for 20 years.
Starting in 1977 he became active in the Soviet human rights movement. For many years he travelled to the USSR as a courier, delivering humanitarian aid and smuggling out information on the situation in camps, prisons and psychiatric hospitals. The information was used in Western campaigns for the release of Soviet dissidents.
Van Voren has written extensively on Soviet issues and, in particular, issues related to mental health and human rights, and published a dozen books. His most recent ones are On Dissidents and Madness (2009), Cold War in Psychiatry (2010) and Undigested Past – the Holocaust in Lithuania (2011).
On October 28 in New York City, Van Voren was presented with the Pardes Humanitarian Prize in Mental Health, an award bestowed annually at the International Awards Dinner in New York City, in recognition of an individual or organization whose extraordinary contribution has made a profound and lasting impact by improving the lives of people suffering from mental illness and by advancing the understanding of mental health. The Prize focuses public attention on the burden of mental illness on individuals and on society, and the urgent need to expand and enhance mental health services both in the developed world and in developing countries. Established in 2014, the Pardes Humanitarian Prize is named in honour of Dr. Herbert Pardes, the first recipient of the award.
The recipient of the Pardes Humanitarian Prize in Mental Health is chosen by a distinguished international Selection Committee from nominations solicited worldwide, and receives an honorarium. This year the USD$150,000 award is shared by Robert van Voren and Dr. Altha J. Stewart (USA), a pioneering voice in America about structural racism and its impact on mental health treatment for people of colour.
Prof. Van Voren will be donating his share of the honorarium to Ukraine.