In grand style, Hollywood stars and mental illness outreach leaders were honored Oct. 14 at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles with annual Voice Awards for contributions in combating stigma.
Oscar award-winning actor Richard Dreyfuss hosted the event that honored writers, producers and actors, as well as individuals living with mental illness, who have helped raise public awareness and given voice to mental health issues.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services sponsors the Voice Awards through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), honoring individuals living with mental illness who speak out to educate the public and creative artists in television and film who incorporate accurate, dignified and respectful portrayals of mental illness in their work.
Television shows and movies can be powerful tools to overturn stereotypes and demonstrate the hope of recovery.
This year’s Voice Awards event celebrated award-winning productions that include the movies The Soloist, Michael Clayton, Lars and the Real Girl and television shows 90210, Grey's Anatomy, Law & Order: SVU and United States of Tara.
Lifetime Achievement Award
Mary Ellen Copeland Copeland is the author of the popular book about the process of recovery, The Depression Workbook: A Guide for Living with Depression and Manic Depression. She developed the Wellness Action Recovery Plan (WRAP), a simple self-help system for identifying and using personal resources to stay well. In 2005, the Copeland Center for Wellness and Recovery was established, conducting trainings world wide.
Five-time Academy-Award nominee and Emmy award-winning actress Glenn Close was honored with a Special Recognition Award for launching the BringChange2Mind campaign to educate the public about the effect of stigma on people with mental illness and their families. (See separate story in this issue). A Spotlight Award was given to former U.S. Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon and Mrs. Sharon Smith for heightening awareness about suicide prevention. In 2004, President George W. Bush signed the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act, exactly one year after the Smith’s 21-year-old son, Garrett, died by suicide from bipolar disorder. That same day, Senator Smith spoke before NAMI’s national convention—receiving an emotional standing ovation. The measure provides grants to colleges, universities, and American Indian organizations for suicide prevention programs.
Three of the individuals living with mental illness’ voices honored were NAMI leaders: Marion Bacon, Mark Davis and Ann Kirkwood.
Marion Bacon is a member NAMI’s African American and GBLT leader groups. For the past nine years, she has volunteered in the NAMI Memphis office. She is also a presenter in NAMI’s In Our Own Voice public education program.
Mark Davis is also a member of NAMI’s GLBT Leaders Group. As a person who is gay, living with mental illness, in recovery from addiction, dealing with hearing loss and living with an HIV-positive diagnosis, he has used his experiences to educate the public, inspire others and work for change in the nation’s health care system.
Ann Kirkwood is a senior research associate for Idaho State University's Institute of Rural Health, specializing in school-and community-based mental health and suicide prevention programs for rural areas. In 2000, she won the prestigious International George Peabody Award for the documentary, "Hearts and Minds," concerning teens and mental illness and the documentary "In Our Own Voice,"—which NAMI honored by naming its signature In Our Own Voice public education program after.
Additional Voice Awards were presented to:
- Eric Arauz, a professional speaker offering the perspective of both a person living with mental illness and a family member.
- John Kevin Hines, who has spoken to over 150,000 people about his experiences, reached millions in media interviews and works with. the Bridge Rail Foundation to raise the rail on the Golden Gate Bridge to prevent suicides.
- Tyrus “T.J.” Curtis, National Chairman of Youth M.O.V.E. (Motivating Others through Voices of Experience) National, a youth-led subsidiary of the National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health. He speaks publicly about his experience in the foster care, educational and juvenile justice systems.
Special Recognition Awards also were given to Grey New York, an advertising agency that developed a public service campaign in partnership with the Ad Council aimed at decreasing negative attitudes about mental illness and encouraging young adults to support friends who live with mental health issues, and the Glass Book Project, an innovative art project of Witness Justice and Rutgers University to increase social inclusion.
- Grey's Anatomy (ABC) for the episode "Sweet Surrender" addressing posttraumatic stress disorder.
- United States of Tara (Showtime) for the episode "Inspiration" addressing dissociative identity disorder;
- 90210 (CW) for the episodes "Off the Rails" and "Okaeri, Donna!" addressing bipolar disorder;
- Monk (USA) for the episode "Mr. Monk's 100th Case" addressing obsessive compulsive disorder;
- Law & Order: SVU (NBC) for the episode "Trials" addressing posttraumatic stress disorder;
- In Treatment (HBO) for the episode "Gina" addressing depression; and
- Front of the Class (Hallmark) a made-for-television movie addressing Tourette's Syndrome.
- The Soloist for addressing schizophrenia;
- Lars and the Real Girl for addressing a delusional disorder and community support;
- Michael Clayton for addressing bipolar disorder; and
- Helen for addressing depression.
- Autism: The Musical
- In a Dream for addressing delusional disorder; and
- MTV Network's True Life: I Have Schizophrenia for addressing schizophrenia, which prominent featured a young NAMI In Our Own Voice presenter.
It’s a long list! The number of awards reflect the growing movement that is making significant strides toward the elimination of stigma.
Many of the movies, television shows and documentaries are available through Amazon.com.