Senator Elizabeth Dole and the late actress Carrie Fisher were among those honored at the 2017 Voice Awards in Los Angeles on Aug. 16, 2017, for raising awareness of behavioral health issues and encouraging people to speak out and seek help. This year’s Voice Awards, an event sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), followed the theme “Honoring Those Who Serve: Hope, Resilience and Recovery” and recognized people working to address the mental health and addiction challenges faced by our military and veteran communities. The awards ceremony was hosted by Chef Robert Irvine, a fervent supporter of issues affecting military personnel and their families through the Robert Irvine Foundation.
Representatives of Elements Behavioral Health were privileged to attend an event that honored so many extraordinary community leaders, organizations, screenwriters and producers for their efforts in educating the public about mental illness and addiction and reducing stigma around these issues. Overriding messages of the awards program were that we all have a role to play in saving lives, and that we can help people travel the positive journey of recovery from conditions like depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury, as well as a condition known as “moral injury,” which is common among soldiers who have experienced combat and lost comrades. The condition gives rise to feelings of shame, guilt, anxiety and anger, among others.
Many of the organizations, campaigns, films and TV shows that SAMHSA honored are raising awareness about suicide, and the fact that every day 20 veterans take their lives. Several video clips from recent productions were screened at the event, including interviews with people who have been touched by suicide. One young man who survived his suicide attempt said, “I thought maybe life isn’t for everybody … I was done, and I was wrong.” Another veteran and survivor highlighted the importance of therapy for recovery, saying, “Anyone can muscle through physically, but not psychologically. Without counseling, I can’t say where I’d be right now.”
SAMHSA and the many peers, leaders, groups and entertainment productions highlighted at the event share a common goal of inspiring others to practice prevention, seek treatment, or support a loved one in recovery from a mental illness or addiction. Honorees this year included Kevin Briggs, Tom Cruz, General Arthur T. Dean, Major General (Ret.) Mark Graham and Carol Graham, Kristina Kaufmann, Montavious McKinney and Jodi Savits. Entertainment productions or films honored included “Chris Gethard: Career Suicide,” “Jane the Virgin,” “The Warfighters,” “One Day at a Time,” “This Is Us,” “Captain Fantastic,” “Megan Leavey,” “Almost Sunrise,” “Iron Will” and “The S Word.”
Throughout the event and pre-show interviews, many speakers shared their stories and messages of compassion, survival and recovery. One of the most powerful messages came from A. Kathryn Power, a SAMHSA regional director and the acknowledged “mother” of the Voice Awards, who sat down for an exclusive pre-show interview with Keris Jan Myrick, associate director of consumer affairs for SAMHSA.
“Whether you are a military person or any person with mental health or addiction issues, you should have access to the care you need, when you need it,” Power said. “No matter what, there is hope.”
The 2017 Voice Awards event was held at Royce Hall on the University of California at Los Angeles campus, and also was streamed live online nationwide.