2016 SAMHSA Voice Awards Recap

APNA News: The Psychiatric Nursing Voice  |  September 2016 Members' Corner Edition

Each year at the Voice Awards, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) celebrates consumer leaders, as well as writers and producers of television and film who have raised awareness and understanding of mental health and substance use disorders. For the sixth year, APNA participated as a program partner. APNA member Charmaine Platon, RN, attended this year's awards ceremony on our behalf.

Charmagne Platon
Charmaine Platon

Activist Malala Yousafzai once said, “When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.” One’s voice is an avenue for change—a way to raise awareness, dispel myths and misconceptions, and educate others about a specific topic. I personally experienced the power of voice at the 2016 Voice Awards hosted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) on August 10, 2016 in UCLA Royce Hall.

For the past 11 years, SAMHSA has implemented this program by teaming up with the entertainment industry to fight prejudice and discrimination towards those affected by behavioral health conditions. The program dispels common stereotypes and stigma by using television, film, and other media platforms to showcase accurate and realistic portrayals of people with mental illness and substance use conditions. This year’s Voice Awards theme, “Strengthening Families through Hope and Help,” emphasized the vital role that family members play in the recovery of their loved ones.

The night kicked off with a sincere welcome video by First Lady Michelle Obama. Afterwards, Dr. Mehmet Oz (host of The Dr. Oz Show) made his appearance as this year’s Voice Awards emcee. Seeing a health care provider selected as an emcee for this program made me realize how significant an impact (and voice) health care providers have in the fight against stigma. As a staff nurse in an inpatient psychiatric hospital, I felt empowered seeing Dr. Oz’s enthusiasm on the stage.   

Tom Hill, MSW and SAMHSA Senior Advisor for Addiction and Recovery, then made opening remarks, which segued into the start of the awards presentation. Various categories of awards were honored, including Lifetime Achievement, Film, Consumer/Peer/Family Leadership, Television, Young Adult Leadership, Documentary, and SAMHSA Special Recognition.

Voice Awards Stage
The stage at the Voice Awards.

One of the most touching moments of the night was the presentation of the SAMHSA Special Recognition Award to the Jackson-Brown Family. Three members of the family—Yashi Brown, Rebbie Jackson-Brown, and Stacy Brown-Salas—came up on stage and spoke about their personal experience with mental illness. Yashi was brave enough to talk about how she had been treated at UCLA for bipolar disorder at the age of 24. She then shared a message of hope for others, saying, “Recovery is possible,” and subsequently discussed her own obstacles and how she continues to be successful today. The Jackson-Brown Family also spoke about each family member’s role in Yashi’s recovery. They are a living example of the power of voice and convey their messages of hope through music.

Another standout moment in the ceremony was the presentation of the Documentary Award to Director Glenn Holsten for his film Hollywood Beauty Salon. The documentary bravely highlights real clients’ stories at The Hollywood Beauty Salon, a beauty parlor in the NHS Germantown Recovery Community. Members of the community undergo treatment for mental illness and addiction while growing together in camaraderie at the salon by sharing stories and supporting one another in their recovery journey. As salon proprietor Rachel “Hollywood” Carr said while receiving the award on stage, “We are all recovering from something,” reaffirming the film’s theme of community and social support in recovery.

I was honored to have witnessed the power and impact of voice through the brave accomplishments of those recognized at this year’s SAMHSA Voice Awards. Even one voice has the power to dispel stigma, clarify myths and misconceptions, and raise awareness to those who have yet to hear.

-Charmaine Platon, RN

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