Hollywood Gala Celebrates Mental Health

NASW and the NASW Foundation were among the sponsors of the Voice Awards held in Hollywood in May. Award-winning actors, writers and producers joined the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at the event to honor individuals who have shown leadership in their communities to promote understanding and support for those with mental health problems.

NASW California Chapter members with actress Ruta LeeSuzanne Dworak-Peck (second from right) and other NASW California Chapter members with actress Ruta Lee (center) at awards. (Photo: Suzanne Dworak-Peck)

The ceremony included honoring those in the entertainment industry who incorporate dignified, respectful and accurate depictions of people living with mental illness. According to SAMHSA Administrator Terry Cline, the event also highlighted people with mental health problems who have demonstrated that recovery is real and possible and who promote understanding and support for others with mental illnesses.

Tracy Whitaker, director of the NASW Center for Workforce Studies, represented the association as a member of the video screening/awards selection panel. She said the writing and acting in many of the nominated videos were particularly accurate in their portrayals of mental illness and treatment options.

Former NASW President Suzanne Dworak-Peck, along with several other members of the NASW California Chapter, attended the ceremony.

"It's important that NASW participate in these events," Dworak-Peck said. "We need to keep professional social workers in the spotlight of the media and entertainment industries to help show that we're important stakeholders in mental health treatment."

She added that the Voice Awards are beneficial in other ways. "We know that accurate depictions of mental illness and mental health treatment can greatly improve the public's understanding about social workers' services and their clients," she said.

Marvin Alexander, a social work graduate student from Jonesboro, Ark., received the Young Adult Leadership Award for his positive actions as a youth coordinator in Arkansas. Alexander, who is attending school in Florida, and other mental health care advocates were honored for their work in raising awareness about the prevalence of mental health problems and helping ensure that people are able to access services that assist in recovery.

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 illness.