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NAMI Members Honored As Voices Against Stigma

August 23, 2005

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services has honored NAMI members Beth Ann Russell of North Carolina and Bruce Black of Texas, with "Voice Awards" for their role in the Elimination of Barriers Initiative (EBI) sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Russell, a 24-year old student living with schizophrenia, has shared her story at numerous NAMI meetings and special events, as well as with hundreds of students at Sandhills Community College in Moore County, NC. She also helped educate hundreds of teachers and school personnel about what it was like to attend high school with a mental illness.

Black is executive director of El Paso Advocacy for Mental Health and Casa Esperanza Activity and Learning Center, and a member of the Texas Mental Health Consumers State Board. He is involved in law enforcement training, community outreach and education, support groups and advocacy, and served as a member of the EBI steering committee in El Paso.

Launched in 2002, the EBI is a three-year pilot program that has tested strategies to reduce stigma in conjunction with state departments of mental health in eight states: California, Florida, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin. Lessons learned through the program will inform other federal and state efforts, including a National Antistigma Campaign currently being developed by SAMHSA and the U.S. Ad Council.

The Voice Awards recognized leaders in those states who were instrumental in raising awareness and understanding of mental health issues, and whose efforts have helped to promote access to treatment and supports for recovery.

Voice Awards also have been presented to producer, writers and directors in the entertainment industry who have helped to reduce stigma through movies, television series, and documentaries. NAMI member John Cadigan and his sister, Katie Cadigan of California were honored for their film, "People Say I'm Crazy" about John's struggle with schizophrenia. The HBO film received a NAMI Media Award in 2004 and was screened at the NAMI national convention that year. Other recipients of the entertainment awards, included the movies The Aviator and Stateside, and episodes from the television series ER, Huff, Monk, Scrubs and Strong Medicine.