Emmy award-winning actor Joe Pantoliano captivated Menninger supporters at the May 9 Annual Signature Luncheon with his inspiring mental health journey. The event, which focused on adolescent mental health, raised more than $280,000 for mental health initiatives and drew 350 people.
During a candid onstage interview with KPRC anchor Andy Cerota, Pantoliano reflected on how his childhood expectations of adult happiness made it difficult for him to understand that he was struggling with mental illness.
“I had achieved all of my goals – married a model, was an actor, had lots of money – and I was supposed to be happy. But I would sit there and wonder ‘why do I want to die when I have all of this?’” he explained. 
Pantoliano recounted a difficult childhood marked by financial hardship and bullying, and how he turned to acting to prove his worth to others. While he found success, and established a loving family, he also grappled with addictions to food, alcohol, drugs, and shopping.
It wasn’t until 9/11, when Pantoliano lost three close friends, that he could no longer ignore his mental illness. Initially, he was concerned about a diagnosis of clinical depression because he feared that medication might dull the emotions he relied on for acting. However, Pantoliano eventually embraced his diagnosis, recognizing the importance of openly discussing mental illness and its positive impact on young people. When asked what he would want someone in his shoes to know about mental illness, he shared, “If your life is becoming unmanageable, you have to realize it’s not your fault, and help is there.”
During the program, Menninger President and CEO Armando Colombo reflected on the evolving world of mental health care and the steps Menninger is taking to make treatment and care accessible to more people, including that the hospital is now accepting insurance from several carriers.
Chaired by Tejuana Edmond and Jennifer Hanson, the luncheon was held at the Hilton Houston Post Oak by the Galleria and honored the YMCA for its continued partnership with Menninger to provide mental health resources to adolescents.