In Brief

Russ Newman, PhD, JD, APA's executive director for professional practice, presented two awards at the 2005 Voice Awards, held in July in Los Angeles to acknowledge film, television and radio writers and producers who create what organizers call "dignified, respectful and accurate portrayals of people with mental health problems."

One of the awards Newman presented went to Sandy Climan, producer of the movie "The Aviator," for its positive portrayal of Howard Hughes's perseverance while facing phobias and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Newman also bestowed an award on Reverge Anselmo, writer and director of the movie "Stateside" for his portrayal of a schizophrenic woman in a relationship with a nonschizophrenic man.

"Our polls show that the public credits the media with helping to reduce the stigma around mental health issues," Newman says. "It's important to recognize the media who have contributed to that reduction."

Also honored, among others, were:

  • Neal Baer, executive producer of "Law & Order: SVU" and former executive producer of "ER," for his work bringing mental health issues into the mainstream media through characters such as ER's Maggie Lockhart (played by Sally Field), who faced and ultimately overcame bipolar disorder.

  • Brooke Shields, for her memoir, "Down Came the Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression" (Hyperion, 2005).

  • Maurice Bernard, who has bipolar disorder, for his portrayal of Sonny Corinthos on "General Hospital."

  • The Spanish language network Univision, for its extensive coverage of mental health awareness through its program "Salud es Vida... ¡Entérate!" (Health is Life...Inform Yourself!).

  • The respective producers of "Monk," "Huff" and "Scrubs," for their positive portrayal of people with mental health problems.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) created the Voice Awards as part of its Elimination of Barriers Initiative--a three-year pilot program launched in September 2003 to use public education to counter stigma and discrimination associated with mental illnesses. SAMHSA launched the program in collaboration with state mental health authorities in California, Florida, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin. Partners include APA, the American Psychiatric Foundation, the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors and the Mental Health Media Partnership.

Attending the awards ceremony with Newman was Helen Mitternight, assistant executive director of public relations in APA's Practice Directorate.

"The Voice Awards were created to reduce the stigma of mental illness," says Mitternight, "which fits right in with part of APA's mission. By recognizing these people, we hope to encourage them to continue this kind of message in entertainment."

--E. PACKARD