By Bob Carolla, NAMI Director of Media Relations
Lights, cameras, action! And don’t forget the superstars—real people, not actors, who live with mental illness.
Each year, the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) presents Voice Awards to writers and producers who incorporate dignified, respectful and accurate portrayals of people with mental illness or substance abuse problems into television or film productions.
Leadership awards also are presented to mental health advocates who have spoken out publicly about their experiences.
This year’s Voice Awards ceremony was held on the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) campus, not far from Hollywood— the heart of the entertainment industry. It started on a somber note, however, because of the death of actor Robin Williams on Aug. 12, the day before. Actor James Wolk, the host of the awards program, who co-starred with Williams in the television show, The Crazy Ones, led a remembrance of him.
In announcing the awards, SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde noted the power of all media to educate broad audiences about “inclusion and recovery” and the fact that “people in recovery contribute to their communities every day.” Toni Jordan, a NAMI member, received a leadership award for her work as a peer recovery support specialist with the Missouri Department of Mental Health. Sean Campbell of N.J., who received the Voice Awards for young adult leadership award, also was honored earlier this summer by NAMI Rockland County of N.Y. with its “Leader of Tomorrow” Award.
Other leadership honorees were Lacy Kendrick of Phoenix, Matt Canutson of N.Y., Greg Dicharry of Phoenix and Patrick Hendry of Va.
Lifetime achievement awards went to Jason Katims, executive producer of NBC’s Parenthood and Friday Night Lights television series, and Jean Campbell, research professor at the Missouri Institute of Mental Health, who NAMI honored in 2008 with its own Lionel Aldridge Champion Award for courage, service and leadership.
Actress Kristen Johnston received a special recognition award for public discussion of her experience with addiction disorders and her charity work mentoring high school girls with self-esteem and addiction issues.
Other Voice Award 2014 honorees include:
The movie , documentary and television awards provide tools to help promote understanding of mental illness and fight stigma—and at the same time provide informative entertainment for audiences beyond the mental health community. Put them on your Netflix queue. Watch them from websites. Post their links on Facebook. Use them to start conversations. You too can honor them by spreading the word to family, friends and others.
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