And the Oscar Goes To....

Sue Bergeson Health Guide
  • My brother is the CEO of the Awards and Recognition Association. He's often contacted this time of year to talk about the Oscars and all the other awards given out in the entertainment and sports industries. He can talk about the gold content of the Oscars, the size of the Stanley cup, how they are created and who is involved. But one question I guarantee he has never gotten is, "Where are the awards for the heroes in mental health?"


    Well, there are some.


    When the issue of stigma-busting comes up in the millions of brainstorming sessions I've been part of, one of the first ideas people invariably offer is, "Hey, let's create a very high profile award in mental health—you know, like the Oscars." Somehow, consumers don't seem to be aware of the many, many national award programs that already exist to honor various members of the community. In honor of the recent Oscar presentations, I thought I would offer this incomplete list of all of the award programs that I know about, with information taken from their websites. (Note: I didn't include awards that are open only to chapters of national organizations like the MHA cultural competency award, the NAMI chapter awards or our own DBSA chapter awards.)

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    In no particular order....


    The 2008 MHA Media Awards are presented each June at Mental Health America's Annual Meeting. They recognize excellence in reporting and portrayals of mental health issues from the previous year. Mental Health America encourages media professionals and student journalists to submit national, state, local and student news and feature stories in print, online and broadcast media.


    The Mental Health America mpower Awards celebrate the lives and work of young people—teens and young adults—who have spoken out about mental health issues to educate their peers and fight stigma.


    The Clifford W. Beers Award is Mental Health America's highest award, given in honor of Clifford W. Beers, the founder of Mental Health America and the country's volunteer mental health advocacy movement. Created in 1976, this award has been presented annually to a consumer of mental health and/or substance use services who best reflects the example set by Beers in his efforts to improve conditions for, and attitudes toward, people with mental illnesses. Nominees must:

    • Be, or have been, consumers of mental health services
    • Have made, or are making, major contributions to improve the lives of people who have mental illnesses, substance use or co-occurring disorders
    • Demonstrate a strong ability to effectively educate the public about mental health, mental illnesses, substance use or co-occurring disorders
    • Effectively promote the concept of recovery to local, statewide and/or national audiences
    • Illustrate his or her commitment to consumer advocacy despite risks to career, finances and public acceptance (strongly encouraged)


    The Student Mental Health Advocate Award, created by the University of Michigan, recognizes outstanding student leadership in the area of campus mental health. It honors a student who has helped to create a healthier campus community by raising awareness of mental health issues on campus through education and outreach and/or advocating for mental health services on campus for diverse student populations and/or helping to reduce the stigma of depressive illnesses.


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    The Rhoda and Bernard Sarnat International Prize in Mental Health is presented annually by the Institute of Medicine (IOM). Rhoda and Bernard Sarnat established the award in 1991 out of a commitment to improve the science base and delivery of mental health services. This international award recognizes individuals, groups or organizations for outstanding achievement in improving mental health. It's accompanied by a medal and $20,000. Each year a selection committee appointed by the IOM reviews nominations based on award criteria that reflect the ideals of Rhoda and Bernard Sarnat. The award is presented at the IOM's October Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.


    The Voice Awards acknowledge entertainment writers and producers who give a voice to people with mental health problems by incorporating dignified, respectful and accurate portrayals of individuals with mental illnesses into film and television productions. A program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS), the Voice Awards also provide the opportunity to acknowledge the tireless efforts of mental health consumer leaders to reduce the stigma and discrimination associated with mental health problems.


    The Welcome Back Awards were launched 10 years ago by Eli Lilly and Company to fight the stigma associated with depression and promote the understanding that depression is treatable. Each year, an independent committee of national mental health leaders selects honorees in the following categories: lifetime achievement, community service, de-stigmatization, primary care and psychiatry. These individuals serve as guiding lights for the depression community—people who, through determination and commitment, have made a difference.


    The Isaiah Uliss Award is the new name for an award given each year by the U.S. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association (USPRA) to a person in recovery for their outstanding leadership. USPRA strongly values the incredible contribution people in recovery make to the advancement of psychiatric rehabilitation. Isaiah Uliss was the first recipient of what was originally called the Person in Recovery Advocate Award. The Isaiah Uliss Award goes to an individual who is, or has been, in recovery from a mental illness and whose leadership is exemplary in the advocacy, operation and/or sustaining of community programs and supports.


    Do you know of other mental health "Oscars"? I would welcome your additions to this list. And I encourage you to nominate your heroes for these awards.

Published On: March 05, 2008