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SAMHSA News - May/June 2008, Volume 16, Number 3

Voice Awards: SAMHSA Honors Sensitivity to Mental Health Issues

The entertainment industry’s most accurate portrayals of characters facing mental health issues received honors at a gala ceremony for the 3rd Annual Voice Awards, held in Hollywood, CA.

Writers and producers from “The Sopranos,” “Monk,” “Dirt,” Reign Over Me, and others recently received honors from SAMHSA at the 2008 Voice Awards.

Award-winning actor and mental health advocate Joe Pantoliano and Hairspray film star Nikki Blonsky hosted the event at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles, CA.

Winners were recognized for incorporating dignified, respectful, and accurate depictions of people living with mental health problems into their programs and films.

Awards also were given to outstanding community leaders with mental illnesses who have had a positive impact on the acceptance of people with mental health problems in society.

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 awareness, understanding, and support for young adults and others with mental illnesses.

“The Voice Awards honors television and film writers and producers who have created realistic characterizations of people living with mental illnesses,” said Terry Cline, Ph.D., SAMHSA Administrator.

For more information, visit SAMHSA’s Web site at

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Entertainment Awards

Winners in the television category were:

  • “The Sopranos” for the episode “The Second Coming” addressing suicide and depression

  • “Dirt” for its pilot episode addressing schizophrenia

  • “Monk” for the episode “Mr. Monk is at Your Service” addressing obsessive compulsive disorder

  • “House” for the episode “Resignation” addressing suicide

  • “Friday Night Lights” for multiple episodes addressing bipolar disorder

  • “Huff” for its episode “Whipped Doggie” addressing schizophrenia

  • “Crossing Jordan” for its episode “Save Me” addressing schizophrenia

  • “General Hospital” for multiple episodes addressing bipolar disorder.

Winners in the film category were:

  • Canvas, which tells the story of a family dealing with the challenges of a loved one’s mental illness

  • Reign Over Me, which explores the rekindled relationship between college roommates after one experiences post-traumatic stress disorder

  • Home of the Brave, which tells the story of four American soldiers who return home from Iraq and deal with the memories of war.

Winners in the documentary category were:

  • Cracking Up, which depicts a year in the life of 12 individuals who use laughter as therapy and face their mental illnesses through the use of stand-up comedy

  • Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive, which features interviews with celebrities—including Robbie Williams, Carrie Fisher, and Richard Dreyfuss—about the impact of bipolar disorder and how they have recovered

  • Through My Eyes, which educates teens about mental health issues through the testimonies of their peers who have mental health challenges

  • The MTV documentary series “True Life,” for its “True Life: I Have Autism” and “True Life: I Have Tourette’s Syndrome” episodes.

SAMHSA also presented a Special Recognition Award to Howie Mandel, comedian and host of NBC’s “Deal or No Deal,” for his commitment to children’s mental health as the National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day Ambassador.

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Consumer and Advocacy Awards

The mental health advocates who received Consumer Leadership Awards were:

  • Joan Esnayra, Ph.D., of Arlington, VA (see SAMHSA News online, March/April 2008, to learn about Dr. Esnayra’s work with psychiatric service dogs)

  • Sharon Wise of Washington, DC

  • Paula Comunelli of Santa Cruz, CA

  • Herminio Maldonado of New York, NY

  • Marley Prunty-Lara of Minneapolis.

Marvin Alexander of Miami, FL, a recent appointee to SAMHSA’s National Advisory Council, received Young Adult Leadership Award. (See SAMHSA News online, January/February 2008, to learn about appointees.)

A Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Larry Fricks—a former journalist with bipolar disorder whose long career includes the development and adoption of multiple innovative, recovery-oriented programs and services—by journalist and author Richard Cohen.

For more on the awards program, visit SAMHSA’s Web site at

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