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“Voice Awards” Honor Movies, Television Shows and Real-Life Stars

Voice Awards Leadership and SAMHSA Special Recognition Award Winners. (L-R) Brittany Holt, Shery Mead, Henry Acosta, Chris Herren, SAMHSA Representative Wilma Townsend, Chamique Holdsclaw, and SAMHSA Representative Paolo del Vecchio. Photo credit: SAMHSA.

They are all part of the national movement to eliminate stigma—in popular culture and at our grassroots. Have you heard of them?

On Aug. 22, the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) presented its seventh annual "Voice Awards" to individuals living with mental illness who speak out to educate and inspire others and to entertainment industry leaders who incorporate accurate, dignified and respectful portrayals of mental illness in their work.

Held at Paramount Studios in Hollywood, this year’s Voice Awards ceremony spotlighted advocates such as Metta World Peace of the Los Angeles Lakers, as well as television shows like Law and Order: SVU and MTV’s Demi Lovato: Stay Strong. Metta plays forward with the Lakers, who won the National Basketball Association (NBA) championship in 2010. Afterwards, he raffled off his championship ring and raised more than $650,000 for the mental health cause “Stories of hope, resilience and selfless leadership are critical to helping others find their paths to recovery and wellness," said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde in announcing the awards.

William (Bill) White of Bloomington-Normal, Ill., received the Lifetime Achievement Award for his work as a leader and writer in the recovery community.

Shonda Rhimes, executive producer of the television shows Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice, received a Career Achievement award for her ongoing efforts to educate television audiences about the real experiences of people living with mental health challenge.

Henry Acosta of New Jersey, a former member of NAMI’s National Board received award for his work with the National Resource Center for Hispanic Mental Health and other organizations.

National Football League (NFL) wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who spoke at NAMI’s National Convention this year, received an award for his serving as a voice for people living with borderline personality disorder.

Other 2012 Voice Awards winners were:


[NAMI review: Take Shelter: A Different Kind of Movie]

Television Shows

SAMHSA Special Recognition Award winner, Metta World Peace. Photo credit: SAMHSA
  • Castle (ABC) for the episode "Kill Shot"
  • Glee (Fox) for the episode "On My Way"
  • Homeland (Showtime) for the episode "The Vest"
  • Law and Order: SVU (NBC) for the episode "Personal Fouls"
  • Necessary Roughness (USA) for a series of episodes addressing mental health issues and
  • Parenthood (NBC) for a storyline addressing substance abuse, family support, and recovery.

[NAMI Blog: The New Normal: Actress Claire Danes, Homeland and Hollywood's New Take on Mental Illness]


Other Advocates and Athletes

  • Chris Herren of Portsmouth, R.I wrote about his NBA career and descent into addiction in Basketball Junkie. His story is featured in the ESPN documentary The Unguarded (above) and has spoken to over 100,000 high school and college students.
  • Chamique Holdsclaw, Atlanta, Ga.; made history as a college All-American, a star player in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) and as a gold medalist as a member of TEAM USA in the 2000 Olympics. She speaks to groups about her struggles with depression and has published Breaking Through: Beating the Odds, Shot after Shot.
  • Brittany Holt of Greensboro, N.C. now a peer specialist with the local chapter of Mental Health America received the Youth Adult Leadership Award for her work with the state chapter of Youth M.O.V.E. (Motivating Others through Voices of Experience), organizing an annual statewide leadership series for young adults age 15-21 who have mental or substance use disorders.
  • Shery Mead of Plainfield, N.H is the writer, speaker and trainer who developed “Intentional Peer Support” as an approach for individual and social change.