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Voice Awards Put Special Focus on Military, Veterans and their Families

Voice Awards stage at UCLA's Royce Hall.

Voice Awards stage at UCLA’s Royce Hall.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration’s Voice Awards go to individuals, television shows and films that help raise public awareness about mental health and substance use disorders and improve the lives of others.

Voice Award winner, social worker and NASW member Jodi Savits (second from left) with from left NASW California Chapter Board member Rosamaria Alamo, Past NASW President Suzanne Dworak-Peck and NASW California Chapter Board Member Christina Paddock.

Voice Award winner, social worker and NASW member Jodi Savits (second from left) with from left NASW California Chapter Board member Rosamaria Alamo, Past NASW President Suzanne Dworak-Peck and NASW California Chapter Board Member Christina Paddock.

At this year’s ceremony in Los Angeles on August 16 one of the crystal Voice Award trophies went to social worker Jodi Savits, who is a member of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). Savits is director of Fresh Start, a 40-bed program on the campus of the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Coatesville, PA that gets veterans psychologically ready for mental health and drug and alcohol counseling.

Savits, who overcame an addiction to drugs, said one thing that inspired her to work with veterans is her son-in-law Carl Sher.

The Marine returned from service in the Middle East four years ago and appeared to be adjusting well to civilian life. But within months Sher began displaying symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), including frequent nightmares. But when Jodi urged him to go to the VA for mental health services Sher said the hospital was only for soldiers who had “lost a leg” in combat.

Savits said she is committed to changing this attitude about mental health among veterans. “Veterans need to get services as soon as they return home,” she said.

 

Awards show highlights need for mental health services for military members, veterans and their families

This year’s Voice Awards put special attention on people like Savits who are committed to serving active duty military personnel veterans, and their families.

Suzanne Dworak-Peck and Voice Awards host Chef Robert Irvine.

Suzanne Dworak-Peck and Voice Awards host Chef Robert Irvine.

There are 23.4 million veterans in the United States, 2.2 million active service members, and 1.1 million family members. This population is particularly vulnerable to mental health and substance use disorder issues, said A. Kathryn Power, a SAMHSA regional administrator and one of the hosts of the awards ceremony at UCLA’s Royce Hall.

One in 20 U.S. veterans dies by suicide each year, Power told the audience. Eleven to 20 percent of veterans experience PTSD and children of service members who are deployed overseas are more vulnerable to having stressful relationships with their families and peers, she said.

However, with adequate mental health services military personnel, veterans and their families can overcome such issues. “Service members and veterans have tremendous resilience,” Power said.

Voice Award winners included individuals such as retired Major General Mark Graham and his wife Carol, who became mental health advocates to honor their sons Second Lieutenant Jeff Graham, who was killed by an improvised explosive device in 2004, and Senior Army ROTC Cadet Kevin Graham, who died by suicide in 2003 while studying to be an Army doctor.

“We learned about mental health in the worst possible way,” Mark Graham said.

Other Voice award honorees included “One Day at a Time,” a Netflix original series that features a former Army nurse who is living with physical and mental health issues and “Almost Sunrise,” a documentary about two veterans who go on a 2,700 walk across country to reflect on their war experiences.

National Association of Social Workers plays key role in Voice Awards 

The National Association of Social Workers is a sponsor of the Voice Awards and played a key role in the ceremony.

Dawn Hobdy, MSW, LICSW, director of the NASW Office of Ethics and Professional Review, was a Voice Awards judge. Past NASW member Suzanne Dworak-Peck, MSW, ACSW, LCSW, represented NASW at the event and presented a Voice Award to Army Master Sergeant Tom Cruz, who attempted suicide but has now become a passionate advocate for suicide prevention and mental health among veterans.

“NASW is again proud to sponsor the Voice Awards because it is vital we raise public awareness about mental health issues and substance use disorders and recognize people who are helping others overcome these challenges,” NASW Public Relations Manager Greg Wright said. “The VA is also one of the main  employers of clinical social workers and NASW and the social work profession have long been committed to improving mental health services to the military and veterans.”

Here is the full list of Voice Award Winners. Also take time to watch a brief video NASW presented at the event. 

 

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