Accurate Mental Health Stories Garner Honors

Hollywood writers and producers who have given accurate portrayals of characters with mental health issues in their movies and television shows were honored in October.

NASW California Chapter membersNASW California Chapter members attend the 2009 Voice Awards. From left, they are: Tina Pederson, Suzanne Dworak-Peck, Nancy Anderson and George Anderson.

NASW was a program partner for the 2009 Voice Awards. The event, sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, recognizes writers and producers who have provided dignified and respectful depictions of people with mental health problems.

The ceremony also honors people outside of Tinseltown who have shown leadership to promote understanding and support for those with mental health issues in their communities.

Former NASW President Suzanne Dworak-Peck and other members of the NASW California Chapter attended the ceremony, which was hosted by Academy Award-winning actor Richard Dreyfuss.

"It is important for NASW to help sponsor the Voice Awards in order to honor and recognize entertainment professionals when they get it right on issues that we, professional social workers, care about," said Dworak-Peck. "It's significant for NASW to continue to build relationships with media and entertainment professionals — along with other organizational partners — who share our visions and goals."

Acting SAMHSA Administrator Eric Broderick said writers, producers and mental health consumer leaders have tremendous influence over public perceptions of mental health issues. In a statement, Broderick said the Voice Awards are a way to encourage more mental health storylines and advocacy. They can also help build supportive communities, vital to mental health recovery.

Among those who were recognized for making strides in the mental health improvement movement was Mary Ellen Copeland of Vermont, who was with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Former U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith of Oregon and Sharon Smith — whose 21-year old son, Garrett, committed suicide — received the SAMHSA Spotlight Award.

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

Among the films honored were The Soloist for addressing schizophrenia; Lars and the Real Girl for examining delusional disorder; Michael Clayton for tackling bipolar disorder, and Helen for addressing depression.

The television shows honored included Grey's Anatomy, United States of Tara, 90210, Law & Order and Monk.

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.