September 2011 Member Profile:
Suzane Wilbur, MS, PMHCNS-BC at the 2011 Voice Awards

"It was a heartwarming event that served to raise awareness of behavioral health issues as well as recovery from trauma," says APNA member Suzane Wilbur, MS, PMHCNS-BC, of the SAMHSA 2011 Voice Awards. The Awards were held at Paramount Studios in Hollywood, California on August 24th. The inspiring ceremony celebrated consumers/peer leaders who promote social inclusion and offer hope, as well as writers and producers whose film and tv shows incorporate dignified, respectful, and accurate portrayals of those with mental illness. As a program partner of the Voice Awards, APNA joined organizations from the entertainment, mental health, and media communities in sponsoring the event.

 Wilbur, who has worked for the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health for the past 31 years, represented APNA at the event. Her day started with a luncheon for all of the 19 program partners where they were joined by the director of the Center for Mental Health Services and the new administrator of SAMHSA. “Later that evening was the awards ceremony, which felt just like being at the Oscars!!” she says. A walk down the red carpet took Wilbur, along with representatives from the entertainment industry and the mental health community, into Paramount Studios for the ceremony. The Awards Ceremony was hosted by Emmy and Golden Globe award nominee and NBC’s “Parenthood” star Peter Krause. (Parenthood fans will know him as the character Adam Braverman, who is raising a son with autism.)

“Several writers and producers of television shows and movies were recognized for their accurate and compassionate portrayals of people experiencing trauma,” says Wilbur. “Also, several individuals were recognized for their contributions to recovery from trauma.” Consumers such as Jacki McKinney, who has been called the “co-founder of trauma awareness in America;” Athena Haddon, Director of Everyday Miracles, a peer recovery support center in Massachusetts; and Amanda Gregory, the 22-year old recipient of the Young Adult Leadership Award were honored. Award winners in the entertainment industry included television shows “Glee” and “Mad Men”; movies “The Fighter” and the “Kings Speech”; and documentary “Lost Angels,” which tells the stories of residents of LA’s Skid Row.

“Particularly gratifying were the special awards given to three individuals that are coping with the aftermath of the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Arizona, last January,” says Wilbur. Ron Barber, Giffords’ Congressional District Director, was standing beside her when they both were shot. He was recognized for the work he has done since the tragedy in initiating an anti-bullying program in public schools and a community-wide educational campaign to increase public awareness of mental illness symptoms and treatment services and to reduce stigma. “How remarkable he is for using his experience to promote compassion for and civility towards the person that shot him, as well as towards all people needing mental health services,” notes Wilbur.

The Mayor of Tucson and his wife, Bob and Beth Walkup, were also honored. Says Wilbur: “Mayor Walkup and his wife have been working hard to improve mental health services in their city so that people with mental health problems, like the shooter, can get help early on in the course of their illnesses. They are bringing their message of understanding, civility, dignity, and respect to all US mayors, in Mayor Walkup’s words, ‘to ensure that those in our communities with mental health or addictive problems are getting help early.’”

During her 31 years at the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, Wilbur has worked with people that have severe and persistent mental illnesses and their families.  She is very proud of her involvement in the development, implementation, and direction of a County-operated integrated services agency, now known as a full service partnership.  During her 8 years as Director of this recovery- oriented program, Wilbur and her staff provided employment services, supported housing, integrated substance abuse services , integrated physical health services, nutrition and medication education, and any other services that the clients needed in the clinic and in the field - wherever the client needed the assistance.  Recipients of the Voice Awards exemplify all that Suzane has valued over the years. Of APNA’s part in the 2011 Voice Awards as a program sponsor she says, “It sends an important message of mental health nursing’s commitment to raising awareness of behavioral health, recovery from trauma and integrating recovery into practice."

Learn More About the Voice Awards