National Alliance on Mental Illness
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VOICE AWARDS: Fighting Stigma, Hollywood Style

It’s been a long time coming, but Hollywood has finally rolled out the red carpet for the fight against stigma —through the annual Voice Awards, presented this year at Paramount studios in Los Angeles.

Emmy Award-winning actor Joe Pantoliano hosted ceremonies on May 28, along with Nikki Blonsky, who starred in Hairspray. The awards honor actors, writers and producers, as well as individuals living with mental illnesses, for raising public awareness of mental health issues.

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services sponsors the Voice Awards through the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) as part of the federal government’s Campaign for Mental Health Recovery. The awards recognize individuals living with mental illness who provide a “voice” for consumers in public education and creative artists in television and film who produce dignified, respectful, accurate portrayals of mental illness that shatter stereotypes and demonstrate hopes for recovery.

Special Awards

  • Comedian and actor Howie Mandel, who hosts the prime-time game show "Deal or No Deal," received a SAMHSA special recognition award for advocacy based on his experience living with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). He is the official ambassador for SAMHSA’s Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day, observed during Mental Health Month.
  • The lifetime achievement award was presented to Larry Frick, director of the Appalachian Consulting Group in Georgia, who for 13 years served as director of consumer relations and recovery for the state’s Department of Mental Health. His story recently was featured in a chapter of the book Strong at the Broken Places.
  • Marvin Alexander, age 20, was honored for young adult leadership, based on work as a former coordinator for ACTION for Kids in Arkansas. He is a licensed social worker currently pursuing graduate studies in   Florida and a member of Youth MOVE (Motivating Others through Voices of Experience), a subsidiary of the National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health.
  • Following the official Voice Awards ceremony, No Kidding, Me Too, founded by Pantaliano to lead entertainment industry support for public awareness on mental health issues, presented its own first-ever award to Sally Field, whom NAMI honored in 2001 for her role in as Maggie Wycenski, in six episodes of the television show, ER, portraying her long, difficult struggle with bipolar disorder, as the mother of one of the nurses.

Consumer Leader Awards

  • Paula Comunelli, founder and CEO of Listening Well, an organization for personal and professional development for individuals, organizations and communities.
  • Joan Esnayra. founder and president the Psychiatric Dog Society  (PSDS), who gave up her career as a geneticist to become an advocate for people living with mental illnesses. She has presented at NAMI conferences.
  • Herminio Maldonado, a NAMI member, works with the Bronx Peer Advocacy Center in New York City and has participated in conferences, workshops and training throughout the country. He is a member of the steering committee for the National Association of State mental Health Planning Directors (NASMHPD) Office of Technical Assistance, formerly known as the National Technical Assistance Center (NTAC).
  • Marley Prunty-Lara, a 23-year old University of Minnesota communications student from South Dakota, has been a voice for campus and culturally competent mental health services. She has testified before the U.S, House of Representatives, been interviewed on Minnesota Public Radio and was a speaker at the first NAMIWalk in South Dakota.
  • Sharon Wise, a NAMI member, is a wellness recovery action plan facilitator (WRAP) in Washington, D.C. who has traveled the country an advocate for healing through art. She runs the only a consumer-run advocacy and drop-in center in the nation’s capital.

Television Awards

Writers and producers were honored for specific episodes of television series that involved characters and plots involving mental illness. Stars from the shows attended the awards ceremony. In some cases, season episodes may be available on DVD from   (Some shows involve mature themes reflecting, language, violence, drug use, or sexual content).

  • Crossing Jordan (Season 5, episode 17)
  • Dirt (Season 1, episode 1)
  • Friday Night Lights (Season 1, episodes 18-21)
  • General Hospital (Season 44, episodes 11095 and 11097)
  • House (Season 3, episode 22)
  • Huff (Season 2, episode 3)
  • Monk (Season 5, episode 12)
  • The Sopranos (Season 6, episodes 19)

Feature Films

As rated, films reflect mature themes which may involve language, violence, drug use or sexual content.


As reality-based   productions, documentaries may involve mature themes and content, particularly language.