SAMHSA honors contributors to mental health recovery at the 2009 Voice Awards

Writers and producers from The Soloist, "Grey's Anatomy," "United States of Tara," "90210," and others were honored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for increasing awareness of mental health issues and the power of recovery at the 2009 Voice Awards last night. The event was hosted by Academy Award-winning actor and mental health consumer Richard Dreyfuss at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles.

"Writers, producers and mental health consumer leaders have tremendous influence over public perceptions about mental health issues," said Acting SAMHSA Administrator Eric Broderick, D.D.S., M.P.H. "On behalf of the estimated 50 million Americans who live with mental health problems, the Voice Awards honors these individuals to encourage more mental health storylines and advocacy, building the supportive communities that are vital to mental health recovery."

The Voice Awards recognizes writers and producers who have given a voice to people with mental health problems by incorporating dignified, respectful, and accurate portrayals of these individuals into television and film productions. Awards also were given to outstanding leaders in the mental health recovery movement who are working to promote the social inclusion of people with mental health issues and the real possibility of recovery. The 2009 Voice Awards entertainment winners are:

Television Category

  • "Grey's Anatomy" (ABC) for the episode "Sweet Surrender" addressing post-traumatic 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 post-traumatic 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.

Film Category

  • The Soloist for addressing schizophrenia;
  • Lars and the Real Girl for addressing delusional disorder;
  • Michael Clayton for addressing bipolar disorder; and
  • Helen for addressing depression.

Documentary Category

  • Autism: The Musical for addressing autism;
  • In a Dream for addressing delusional disorder; and
  • MTV Network's "True Life: I Have Schizophrenia" for addressing schizophrenia.

A Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Mary Ellen Copeland of West Dummerston, Vt., for her leadership and contributions to the mental health recovery movement. Through her own personal experience with manic depression, she has conducted research and written many books on mental health recovery, including The Depression Workbook: A Guide for Living with Depression and Manic Depression. In collaboration with others, she developed the popular Wellness and Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) system, a simple self-help system for identifying and utilizing personal resources to get well and stay well. She has also created the Copeland Center for Wellness and Recovery, a non-profit organization that continues her work through trainings worldwide.

The Voice Awards bestowed Consumer Leadership Awards on five mental health advocates and community leaders -- Eric Arauz, North Brunswick, N.J.; Marian Bacon, Memphis, Tenn.; Mark Davis, Philadelphia, Pa.; John Kevin Hines, San Francisco, Calif.; and Ann Kirkwood, Boise, Idaho. The Young Adult Leadership Award was given to Tyrus "T.J." Curtis of Brooklyn, N.Y. These individuals were honored for their work to promote community acceptance and support to facilitate recovery for people with mental health issues.

Former U.S. Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon and Mrs. Sharon Smith -- whose 21-year-old son, Garrett, died by suicide -- received the SAMHSA Spotlight Award for heightening awareness about suicide prevention.

In addition, SAMHSA honored five-time Academy Award nominee Glenn Close with a Special Recognition Award for her work to educate the public about the effect of stigma on those with mental illness and their families. 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 are living with mental health issues, also received a SAMHSA Special Recognition Award for its pro-bono work.

The GlassBook Project -- an innovative art project program of Witness Justice and Rutgers University-Newark, Department of Arts, Culture and Media to increase social inclusion of individuals with mental illness -- was showcased at this year's event. As a result of the project, students have learned from mental health consumers about the nature and impact of trauma and created 19 glass books to illustrate the consumers' experiences. Witness Justice is a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide support and advocacy for victims of violence and trauma.

The Voice Awards are part of the Campaign for Mental Health Recovery, a multi-year public service advertising program of SAMHSA and the Ad Council to promote understanding and support for young adults and others with mental illnesses.


  1. Mark A. Davis Mark A. Davis United States says:


    With pride and joy being honored with a consumer leadership award at the SAMHSA Voice Awards Ceremony in Paramount Studios was an amazing experience.  It was enchanting with everything from red carpet (inside due to unusual rain and cold temps) to after-party on a Hollywood set (basic big room with black drops and white table cloth).  The award ceremony honors film, television and entertainment industry’s positive portrayal of those of us LIVING WITH mental health, addiction and complex conditions.  

    It was an honor to represent the enormous need for affirming mental health, addiction and suicide prevention services for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex and two-spirit citizens with help from supportive allies.  Akin to the fight for LGBT non-discrimination, hate crime, immigration, same sex marriage legislative, executive and litigation action; dismantling of DADT and DOMA; and civil rights equality, WE MUST NOT overlook the need for suicide prevention, mental health, addiction and co-occurring health services TO REMAIN ALIVE TO THRIVE.

    In addition, the mental health consumer/survivor civil rights movement represents a fine line between creativity and madness as we can recover with artistic expression, peer support, inclusion in representation and freedom to reform akin to all the rights movements that have lead and inspired our own inherent fight for recovery rights. IT’S NOT ABOUT US WITHOUT US!!!

    I was able to score tickets to the Phillies first play-off victory at Dodgers Field before flying back to Philly on a red eye.  The trip from gate to gate was a 72-hour "voluntary" commitment in a Glenn Close Recovery Encounter of the Third Kind with Richard Dreyfuss as our emcee.  He shared his story living with a bipolar condition that has challenged and supported an Oscar winning career.  Richard charged Hollywood and stakeholders to face a new beginning in our work to save lives, share our stories and lead the way to end stigmas and stereotypes. A VOICE is best heard when a part of a larger movement for civil rights, recovery transformation and social change.  LET ALL OUR VOICES BE HOPEFUL, HERALDED AND HONORED!  It’s a WRAP!

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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