The Benjamin von Sternenfels Rosenthal Grant for Mental Health Investigative Journalism
“The stories this fellowship supports should shine a light on mental illness and expose issues that can lead to understanding and solutions for a problem that has, for too long, been kept in the shadows.”
- von Sternenfels and Rosenthal families
The Benjamin von Sternenfels Rosenthal Grant was launched in 2020 by the Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism in partnership with Reveal from The Center of Investigative Reporting. The award honors Ben von Sternenfels Rosenthal, a writer, athlete, devoted son, brother and friend to many from the San Francisco Bay area. He took his life in August 2019.
The journalist awarded this grant joins a talented cohort of Carter fellows from the United States and abroad tackling some of society’s biggest mental health challenges through their fellowship projects.
The grant is awarded annually to a gifted journalist who proposes an in-depth investigation into a mental health topic of their choice. The grantee’s project aims to hold a powerful person, institution or government actor accountable for harm or injustice related to mental health or substance use.
With this grant, the Rosenthal and von Sternenfels families support powerful stories that help dismantle stereotypes, remove stigma and humanize those who live with mental illnesses. They strongly believe that stories can be transformative, that stories told well and deeply-reported can create understanding and empathy.
The gift that launched this grant was donated to The Carter Center’s Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism by Ben’s father and Center for Investigative Reporting board member Robert Rosenthal; Ben’s siblings, Adam and Ariella Rosenthal, and Ben’s mother, Inka v. Sternenfels.
Benjamin von Sternenfels Rosenthal April 12, 1993 - August 19, 2019
Benjamin von Sternenfels Rosenthal was a writer, elite athlete, devoted son, brother, and friend to many. His loved ones called him “Bimmy” or “Bim.” Ben had no tolerance for bullies and was acutely sensitive to inequities and the struggles of others.
As he navigated living with a mental illness, Ben leaned on his gift for writing with sharpness and humor by penning fiction, short stories, essays, screenplays and a novel. It is where he found peace and respite from anguish. He rarely shared what he wrote.
In the weeks leading up to August 19, 2019, when Ben took his life, he wrote a great deal. After Ben died, his family found a trove of his writing—his final words gifts for those who loved him. They were words not of anger and pain. But of understanding, grace, serenity and love.
Ben is survived by his mother, Inka v. Sternenfels; his brother Adam; sister, Ariella; father Robert and many cousins, aunts, uncles and friends.
“It is hard to imagine what it is like for the individual who suffers and struggles with mental illness. For the families and those who love those individuals there is also a terrible and endless struggle.”
- von Sternenfels Rosenthal families
Read more about Ben, in his family’s words
The Benjamin von Sternenfels Rosenthal Grantee - 2021-2022 Brett Sholtis
Brett Sholtis is the health reporter at NPR affiliate WITF in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. His work often focuses on mental health policy and how it interacts with policing and prisons. His stories have been broadcast and published by NPR, Kaiser Health News, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Spotlight PA and public radio stations across Pennsylvania. He’s discussed his work on All Things Considered, the NPR Politics Podcast, WITF Smart Talk and elsewhere. Sholtis’ 2019 profile of a young woman with schizophrenia was recognized with a Radio Television Digital News Association Regional Edward R. Murrow Award. In 2020, a follow-up to that story helped to get that woman moved from county jail to a psychiatric facility.
He is the host of Transforming Health’s annual “A Summer Read” book series, where he has led public conversations with Sheryl Sandberg, Sue Klebold and Sam Quinones. Sholtis also has reported extensively on Pennsylvania’s response to the coronavirus and election-year social unrest in Harrisburg. He is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists and NPR/Kaiser Health News’ team of reporters. Previously he worked as a business reporter at York Daily Record, where he was recognized with Associated Press and Keystone Awards for his work on nuclear waste and food safety. Sholtis is a University of Pittsburgh graduate and a Pennsylvania Army National Guard Kosovo campaign veteran.
In an audio feature and online series, Brett Sholtis will explore how ineffective behavioral health policy and militarized law enforcement lead to crisis situations where police arrest or kill people with serious mental illnesses.
He will look at potential solutions to preventing fatal police encounters and ways to address the criminalization of people with mental illnesses.
“As we examine the problem of systemic racism and the role of police in the U.S., neglected behavioral health infrastructure must be part of the conversation,” wrote Sholtis in his application essay.
Sholtis’ project will look at inhumane treatment, chronicle the lives of those killed by police and the experiences of incarcerated people, trauma within law enforcement, and efforts to change the system that are seeing successes.
“I believe we can help shift the norm, making it unacceptable to jail someone who has a serious mental illness,” Sholtis wrote, “and we can work to prevent fatal encounters between people in crisis and police.”
Consent and compliance: How ineffectual behavioral health policy and militarized law enforcement lead to crisis situations where police arrest or kill people with serious mental illnesses
The Benjamin von Sternenfels Rosenthal Grantee - 2020-2021
Susan Greene has led the nonprofit Colorado Independent since 2013. Beginning in 2020, Greene and managing editor Tina Griego, in partnership with Colorado Press Association and Colorado Media Project, are collaborating on in-depth investigative and narrative stories with news outlets statewide.
Greene reported for papers in California and Nevada before her 13 years as a reporter and then metro columnist at The Denver Post. “Trashing the Truth,” a series about lost and destroyed DNA evidence that she reported with Miles Moffeit, helped exonerate five men, prompted reforms on evidence preservation and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in investigative journalism.
Her 2012 project, “The Gray Box,” exposed the mental health effects of long-term solitary confinement. She lives in Denver with her two kids and has spent longer than she cares to admit learning to fly fish.
Fallout: Chronicling mental health effects of COVID-19 in a state highly vulnerable to suicide
Aaron Glantz is senior investigations editor at NPR's California newsroom. He was previously a senior reporter at Reveal. Glantz is the author of "Homewreckers: How a Gang of Wall Street Kingpins, Hedge Fund Magnates, Crooked Banks, and Vulture Capitalists Suckered Millions Out of Their Homes and Demolished the American Dream." Glantz produces journalism with impact. His work has sparked more than a dozen congressional hearings, numerous laws and criminal probes by the Drug Enforcement Administration, FBI, Pentagon and Federal Trade Commission. A two-time Peabody Award winner, finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, multiple Emmy Award nominee and former John S. Knight journalism fellow at Stanford University, Glantz has had his work appear in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, NBC Nightly News, Good Morning America and PBS NewsHour. His previous books include "The War Comes Home" and "How America Lost Iraq."
Robert J. Rosenthal
Robert J. Rosenthal joined CIR as executive director in 2008, a position he held until 2017. Rosenthal worked for 22 years at The Philadelphia Inquirer, starting as a reporter and becoming its executive editor in 1998. He became managing editor of the San Francisco Chronicle in 2002. Before joining the Inquirer in 1979, Rosenthal worked as a reporter for The Boston Globe and The New York Times, where he was a news assistant on the foreign desk and an editorial assistant on the Pulitzer Prize-winning Pentagon Papers project. As a reporter, Rosenthal won numerous awards, including the Overseas Press Club Award for magazine writing, the Sigma Delta Chi Award for distinguished foreign correspondence and the National Association of Black Journalists Award for Third World Reporting. Rosenthal was a Pulitzer Prize judge four times and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in international reporting.