Voice Awards Ceremony Focuses on Suicide Prevention
Actor, comedian and singer Wayne Brady is one of the funniest men in Hollywood but Wednesday at the 10th annual Voice Awards in Los Angeles he told the audience that behind the smiles and laughter he battles depression.
It was only after the death by suicide of fellow comedian and friend Robin Williams a year ago that he decided to address his mental health.
“That is when I knew I definitely needed to get help,” said Brady, who won a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Special Recognition Award. “A year ago is when I really started to take my recovery seriously.”
The National Association of Social Workers (NASAW), NASW Foundation and NASW California Chapter were among about 30 organizations that sponsor the Voice Awards, an annual SAMHSA event that honors individuals, television programs and films that educate the public about behavioral health and substance abuse issues or advocate on these issues.
Last year’s Voice Awards were held two days after the death of Williams, who had lived with depression for years. The theme of this year’s Voice Awards was preventing suicide, one of the leading causes of death in the United States, particularly for men and veterans.
SAMHSA, NASW and other organizations have said the entertainment industry is one of the best ways to educate the public about suicide prevention, mental health and substance abuse.
“We can use our influence for good,” said Voice Awards host and actress Chandra Wilson, who stars in “Grey’s Anatomy.”
NASW played a key role in this year’s Voice Awards and was able to air a short video about the organization to the Voice Award audience, which included mental health professionals, advocates and consumers and TV and film producers, directors, writers and actors.
NASW Senior Practice Associate Bekki Ow-Ärhus, LICSW, ACSW, DCSW, was a Voice Award judge. And past NASW President Suzanne Dworak-Peck, MSW, LCSW, ACSW and 2012 NASW Social Worker of the Year Marshall Wong, MSW, were presenters.
They presented a Voice Film Award to the makers of “Welcome to Me,” a 2014 movie about a woman named Alice Klieg (actress Kristen Wiig) who lives with borderline personality disorder.
Alice wins the lottery, buys her own cable access talk show, and decides to go off her medication. Ironically the quirky behavior caused by her mental illness causes her TV show to gain a cult following but alienates her family, friends and therapist (actor Tim Robbins).
Actor Ed Asner, who played television news editor Lou Grant in the iconic 70’s sitcom “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” was also a Voice Award presenter. He said he is surprised there are so many organizations committed to improving mental health.
Besides NASW other 2015 Voice Award partners included the American Occupational Therapy Association, The American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association Foundation.
“I’m glad to be a part of the Voice Awards,” said Asner, whose speech sometimes tried to make light of the serious issue of suicide. “There are so many organizations trying to stop you from killing yourself.”
2015 Voice Award Recipients
Lifetime Achievement Award, suicide attempt survivor DeQuincy Lezine, PhD.
Consumer/Peer Leadership Award, Veronica Alston, CEO of Ruth’s Miracle Group Home in Maryland for women who are homeless, in transition from domestic violence or on parole for non-violent offenses.
Consumer/Peer Leadership Award, Neil Campbell, executive director of Georgia Council on Substance Abuse.
Consumer/Peer Leadership Award, Bob Carolla, director of media relations for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
Consumer/Peer Leadership Award, Cheryl Sharp, advocate for adult trauma survivors who has worked with the National Council for Behavioral Health
Consumer/Peer Leadership Award, Dese’Rae L. Stage, a suicide attempt survivor who created Live Through This to give a voice to other people who survived suicide attempts.
Young Adult Leadership Award, Hayley Winterberg, a young woman who grew up with bipolar disorder who founded MY LIFE (Magellan Youth Leaders Inspiring Future Empowerment) to support behavioral health among youth.
SAMHSA Special Recognition Award to actor, singer and comedian Wayne Brady.
SAMSA Special Recognition Award to Sam Cochran (retired), founder and coordinator of the Memphis Police Crisis Intervention Team.
SAMHSA Special Recognition Award to actress Brittany Snow, co-founder of Love is Louder movement to help people who feel mistreated, alone or hopeless.
Documentary “That Which I Love Destroys Me”
Film “Welcome to Me”
Film “A Long Way Down”
TV Series “Elementary”
TV Series “Empire”
TV Series “Madam Secretary”
Social workers are some of the leading providers of mental health care in the United States and often work on the front lines in preventing people from dying by suicide. To learn more visit the National Association of Social Workers’ Help Starts Here Mind and Spirit website. SAMHSA also provides a 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and a Suicide Safe app at www.store.samhsa.gov/apps/suicidesafe.