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July 21, 2005

'THE AVIATOR,' 'ER,' 'MONK' AND 'HUFF' WIN VOICE AWARDS; BROOKE SHIELDS, MAURICE BENARD AND UNIVISION HONORED

The writers and producers of "The Aviator," "ER," "Monk" and "Scrubs" were honored for their positive portrayals of people with mental health problems at the Voice Awards last night. In addition, actors Brooke Shields and Maurice Benard and Spanish language television network Univision were honored by the federal government for their activities on behalf of mental health awareness, and writer/producer Neal Baer received a special Career Achievement Award at the gala awards ceremony hosted by Mariette Hartley and Kathleen Sullivan.

Sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Voice Awards recognized film, TV and radio writers and producers who have created positive, accurate and dignified portrayals of people with mental health problems. The event was held at the Skirball Cultural Center's Ahmanson Ballroom in Los Angeles California.

Writers and producers from more than 50 productions were nominated for Voice Awards. From this group, writers and producers of the following productions were named as Voice Award winners: "The Aviator," "ER," "Huff," "Larry King Live," "Monk," "People Say I'm Crazy," "Scrubs," "Stateside," "Strong Medicine," and "There's No Such Thing As Crazy."

Neal Baer, executive producer of "Law & Order: SVU" and former executive producer of "ER," was also presented with a special award for his work in bringing mental health issues into the mainstream. Baer co-created the character of Maggie Lockhart (Sally Field), a woman who faces and ultimately recovers from schizophrenia, on NBC's "ER", and as executive producer of "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit" has created several characters with mental health problems.

Shields recently wrote a book about her experiences with postpartum depression. Emmy Award winner Benard, who has bipolar disorder, is best known for his portrayal of Sonny Corinthos on "General Hospital". Univision devoted extensive coverage to mental health awareness through its "Salud es Vida.¡Entérate!" (Health Is Life.Inform Yourself!) initiative. Sullivan and Hartley, both of whom were diagnosed with bipolar disorder, are outspoken advocates for mental health awareness. Sullivan is also a member of SAMHSA's National Advisory Council.

SAMHSA Administrator Charles G. Curie and SAMHSA's Center for Mental Health Services Director A. Kathryn Power participated in the event.

"The entertainment industry is a powerful vehicle for helping shape public opinion," said Curie. "Positive portrayals show the nation that people with mental health problems do live, learn, work and fully participate in the American community."

In addition to the entertainment awards, the Voice Awards recognized mental health advocates across the country for their efforts to expand public understanding that mental health problems exist in every community and affect almost every family in the United States.

"Stigma is one of the major barriers to mental health care in America," said Power. "The Voice Awards also recognize the people who are working to counter stigma and ensure that help is available to those in need of care."

Entertainment professionals who created original television, film and radio productions with an initial public release between January 1, 2003, and December 31, 2004 were eligible for nomination. Their productions were reviewed by a panel of judges that included mental health advocates and professionals, as well as representatives from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the communications and entertainment fields, and people who have personally experienced mental illnesses.

Program partners of the Voice Awards include: the American Psychiatric Foundation, the American Psychological Association, the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors and the Mental Health Media Partnership

The Voice Awards are part of SAMHSA's Elimination of Barriers Initiative (EBI), a collaborative pilot effort between SAMHSA and eight state mental health authorities in California, Florida, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin. The state EBI initiatives work in partnership with mental health consumers, family members, advocates, providers, and a range of national and state mental health organizations. For more information about the Voice Awards or the EBI visit http://www.allmentalhealth.samhsa.gov/voiceawards.

SAMHSA is a public health agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The agency is responsible for improving the accountability, capacity and effectiveness of the nation's substance abuse prevention, addictions treatment and mental health service delivery systems.

Learn about NAMI's StigmaBusters and how you can get involved with fighting the stigma of mental illness in the media.

Information taken from the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services press release

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