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About the Voice Awards

The Voice Awards program honors consumer/peer/family leaders and television and film professionals who inform the public about behavioral health.

What are the Voice Awards?

The Voice Awards program honors people in recovery and their family members who are improving the lives of people with mental illnesses and substance use disorders in communities across the country. These consumer, peer, and family leaders play a vital role in raising awareness and understanding of behavioral health issues. They are sharing their stories of resilience to demonstrate that recovery is real and possible through treatment and recovery supports.

The awards program also recognizes television and film productions that educate the public about behavioral health and showcase that recovery is real and possible through treatment and recovery supports. The writers and producers of these productions give a voice to people with mental illnesses and/or substance use disorders by incorporating dignified, respectful, and accurate portrayals of these individuals into their scripts, programs, and productions. Through their work, audiences can experience the stories of people with behavioral health issues and embrace the hope and promise of recovery.

Together, these two groups of leaders demonstrate that people with mental illnesses and/or substance use disorders can and do recover, lead meaningful lives, and contribute to their communities.

The Voice Awards program is sponsored by SAMHSA’s Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS), which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The Voice Awards program defines “consumer/peer leader” as a person who has received or is receiving services for a mental illness and/or substance use disorder. It defines “family leader” as a family member who, with his/her loved ones, has championed recovery and addressed mental illnesses and/or substance use disorders in their community.

Judging and Criteria

Consumer/Peer/Family Leaders

Consumer/peer/family leader nominees are evaluated based on their outstanding contributions in all the following areas:

  • Personally demonstrated that recovery is real and possible through treatment and recovery supports
  • Led efforts to reduce the negative public attitudes and misperceptions associated with behavioral health
  • Made a positive impact on communities, workplaces, or schools
  • Promoted meaningful family involvement as an essential part of recovery

All nominees are reviewed by a panel of judges that includes consumer/peer/family leaders in recovery from mental illnesses and/or substance use disorders, behavioral health advocates, HHS representatives, and communication professionals.

Television and Film Professionals

Television show and film nominees are evaluated using the following questions:

  • Are people with mental illnesses and/or substance use disorders central to the plot or outcome of the story?
  • Does the production specifically discuss mental illnesses and/or substance use disorders (diagnoses/conditions, symptoms, treatment/services, supports, etc.) or the journey of recovery?
  • Does the production depict people with mental illnesses and/or substance use disorders and their recovery journeys in a dignified and respectful way?
  • Does the production convey a sense of optimism about the possibility of recovery from mental illnesses and/or substance use disorders?
  • Are people with mental illnesses and/or substance use disorders talked about and depicted respectfully in their interactions with others?
  • Do the people with mental illnesses and/or substance use disorders have a positive impact on their family, community, workplace, school, or other area of life?
  • Does the production promote an understanding and acceptance of people with mental illnesses and/or substance use disorders?

Nominated productions do not need to reflect every element to receive an award. However, the highest ratings are reserved for those productions that emphasize the positive journey of recovery from mental illnesses and/or substance use disorders.

All nominees are reviewed by a panel of judges that includes:

  • Entertainment industry professionals
  • Television and film writers, producers, and directors
  • Consumer/peer/family leaders in recovery from mental illnesses and/or substance use disorders
  • Behavioral health advocates
  • HHS representatives
  • Other Voice Awards program partners
Last Updated: 01/12/2018