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Dr. Mehmet Oz of The Dr. Oz Show thinks it’s time for the entertainment industry to start accurately portraying mental illnesses and substance abuse.
As a result of his work to raise awareness to mental health in general, Oz was asked to host this year’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Voice Awards, which honor people in the entertainment industry who similarly work to increase awareness and understanding of mental health issues and substance use disorders.
Various films and TV episodes are awarded, and a select group of entertainers are honored under the category of “SAMHSA Special Recognition.”
This year’s honorees include Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard, Rob Reiner and his son Nick Reiner and Rebbie Jackson, Yashi Brown and Stacy Brown. Spike Lee and director Paul Dalio also are being recognized for their film Touched With Fire, which is about manic depression — and semi-autobiographical on Dalio’s part.
Oz believes that, like Touched With Fire, the best way for the entertainment industry to accurately portray mental health issues is by having “people involved in editing or creating the piece who have actually suffered themselves.”
“When you have the director of the movie who literally lives through manic depressive episodes, you understand what suicide is about,” Oz told The Hollywood Reporter. “For the first time, you really get it.”
When film and TV creators fail to responsibly depict mental illness or addiction, negative stereotypes about those who suffer in real life are only reinforced, he added.
According to Oz, one of the most common misconceptions is “there’s a general belief that you can’t get better,” he told THR. “That’s not the case. Recovery is real.”
Recently, Oz has featured a variety of individuals in the entertainment industry on his show to touch on the importance of mental health awareness in film and TV. He made the decision to do so after conducting a survey that showed people valued mental health more than physical health.
“We started pretty aggressively working with government agencies, nonprofit organizations [and] doctors, just trying to understand how mental health is affecting our society and trying to get people to realize there are resources out there that can help them,” Oz told THR. “As we had these conversations, I began to appreciate more and more that part of the reason art is so important in our lives is that it opens us up to experiences, awarenesses — that we otherwise would be closed to.”
Even if someone doesn’t personally suffer from a mental illness or addiction, film and TV, when done correctly, can be a great learning experience, he added.
“There’s no question that movies and art in general have the power, like Touched with Fire shows, an awareness can be brought to conditions you don’t really understand,” Oz said. “You can actually be in the body of the person suffering, so you can see it through their eyes.”
These type of creative projects are the ones that will be honored at the Voice Awards.
“Spike Lee, who could’ve made any movie he wants, decided he wanted to make this movie because he felt mental health is so underappreciated,” said Oz.
Lee’s movie is nominated for an award along with Love & Mercy, Being Charlie, The Dark Horse and TV shows Blue Bloods, Empire, Mom and more. Individuals in both the entertainment industry and consumer/peer leaders in recovery from substance use and/or mental disorders also will be honored.
The Voice Awards will take place Wednesday at UCLA’s Royce Hall and will be live-streamed for those who register here.
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