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Robin Williams’ Legacy Overshadows SAMHSA Voice Awards

Fans leave flowers and mementos at Robin Williams' star at the Los Angeles Walk of Fame. Photo by Greg Wright, NASW.

Fans leave flowers and mementos at Robin Williams’ star at the Los Angeles Walk of Fame. Photo by Greg Wright, NASW.

Actress Kristin Johnston. Photo courtesy of Interview Magazine.

Actress Kristin Johnston. Photo courtesy of Interview Magazine.

When “3rd Rock from the Sun” actress Kristen Johnston mounted the stage Wednesday to accept a Special Recognition Voice Award she burst into tears. However, Johnston said they were tears of anger and frustration — not happiness.

“I’m furious it takes a celebrity’s death to make people concerned about addiction and depression,” said Johnston,¬† referring to renowned comedian and actor Robin Williams, who had committed suicide just two days before the awards at his home near Tiburon, Calif. “We need to stop focusing on the entertainment (industry) like it’s only a problem that we have.”

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Voice Awards go to individuals who help people living with mental illness and addiction and movies and TV shows that help educate and raise awareness about mental illness and addiction. The National Association of Social Workers is one of 18 organizations that is a partner in the Voice Awards and NASW Associate Counsel Elizabeth Felton, JD, MSW, was one of this year’s Voice Award judges.

2014 Voice Award recipients included Toni Jordan, who overcame addiction and homelessness to become a peer evaluator at the Missouri Department of Mental Health Consumer Operated Service Programs, and “Short Term 12,” an understated yet powerful film that looks at a mentally troubled young woman who supervises a home for teenagers in foster care.

Johnston herself suffered from addiction to prescription drugs and alcohol and periods of depression and isolation. She became sober and went on to found SLAM (Sober, Learning and Motivation) and now works to raise the self-esteem of high school girls and speaks at rehab centers and recovery events.

So it was fitting that Williams, an actor who had fought depression and addiction for years, was on the mind of Johnston and many others at the Voice Awards.

Social worker Rear Adm. Peter Delany, PhD, LCSW-C, welcomes Voice Award attendees.

Social worker Rear Adm. Peter Delany, PhD, LCSW-C, welcomes Voice Award attendees.

“Like many here, I am here with a heavy heart,” said Voice Awards show master of ceremonies and actor James Wolk, who starred with Williams in his final TV series “The Crazy Ones.” “Think of what we all would have missed if we close our eyes to the magic that was Robin Williams.”

Social worker and Rear Adm. Peter Delany, PhD, LCSW-C, who is director of SAMHSA Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, hosted the the Voice Awards and welcomed attendees. Delany said Williams’ death underscores the need for the public to keep talking about mental illness and addiction so there is more awareness and more people are willing to come forward to seek treatment.

The theme of this year’s Voice Awards also focused on young adult behavioral health and there were segments in the program where interviews with UCLA students about their attitudes toward mental health were aired. In fact, the awards program was held at Royce Hall on the UCLA campus.

Delany said young people suffer from high rates of mental illness and suicide. However, young people are more likely to get help when they get information from their peers.

“We can direct the conversation toward strength and resiliency,” Delany said.




2014 Voice Award Recipients

Jason Katims, Career Achievement Award

Jean Campbell, PhD, Lifetime  Achievement Award

Lacy Kendrick Burk,  Consumer/ Peer Leadership Award

Toni Jordan, Consumer/ Peer Leadership Award

Matt Canuteson, Consumer/ Peer Leadership Award

Patrick Hendry, Consumer/Peer Leadership Award

Sean Campbell, Young Adult Leadership Award

Greg Dicharry, Consumer/Peer Leadership Award

Actress Kristen Johnston, Special Recognition Award

Actor Dwayne Johnson, Special Recognition Award

Film “Short Term 12”

Film “Home”

Film “The Spectacular Now”

Film “Frankie & Alice”

Documentary “The Anonymous People”

Documentary “Life Continued…”

TV Show “Elementary”

TV Show “Mike & Molly,” Episode “Mind Over Molly”

TV Show “Mom,” Episode “Zombies and Cobb Salad”

TV Show “Nashville”











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