Yesterday, FX Network, Reelz Channel and other networks broadcast the 15th Annual PRISM Awards Showcase Special. The PRISM Awards were previously handed out on April 28th at the Beverly Hills Hotel. PRISM Awards are distributed annually by the Entertainment Industries Council (EIC). They are distinctive honors because they recognize the best of the Entertainment Industry’s work in accurately depicting substance abuse and mental health issues in film and television.
‘Private Practice’s’ KaDee Strickland was a PRISM recipient this year for Female Performance in a Drama Series Multi-Episode Storyline, for her painstakingly honest portrayal of Dr. Charlotte King’s brutal workplace rape and its aftermath.
In an interview given prior to receiving her award last April, Strickland and I discussed the power that the television medium offers in reaching out to viewers, raising awareness for many social causes, and offering help to those watching who may not otherwise seek it. Strickland felt that Creator Shonda Rhimes told Charlotte’s story in a very intense and real way and the ripple effect of hope and help that it sent was television being used in its best and most powerful form. She said:
‘You’re not just reaching people. You’re in their home when they’ve just had an argument. You’re in their home when they just got home from a long day at work when they’re sitting down to dinner. You never know the capacity with which people unwind around what you’re putting out there. But when you take that and you utilize the opportunity in the way Shonda Rhimes does so beautifully, it is a powerful thing to be a part of. I wish everybody would take the time to tell stories that are uncomfortable and that actually serve the general public giving them information or sparking part of them that may need help, that’s the highest best use of it.’
Strickland, who was featured in yesterday’s PRISM Award broadcast, emphasized:
Every 2 minutes, someone in the United States is sexually assaulted. And, in the amount of time it takes the show to air, 30 people have had an experience similar to Charlotte’s and can relate to it.
Strickland makes a strong and important point: people relate to television and they relate on a very large scale. Therefore, when viewers are helped with very real crises as a result of a character’s storyline, the overall benefits are truly immeasurable.
In Strickland’s case, she and Rhimes partnered with RAINN (Rape Abuse Incest National Network) in an effort to tell a rape survivor’s story as realistically as possible. RAINN Spokesperson Katherine Hull advised me:
When Strickland’s RAINN Public Service Announcement video aired with the first episode of Charlotte’s story, hotline traffic increased by over 500%.
The hotline also received an outpouring of calls expressing gratitude for the episode.
I have also received numerous emails and comments from my ‘Private Practice’ column readers who are either sexual assault survivors, or family or friends of survivors who were personally impacted or received help from watching KaDee Strickland and Paul Adelstein tell Charlotte and Cooper’s story of hope. There can be no higher compliment to an actor, writer or crew than this kind of positive public impact.
Other honorees received PRISM Awards on a wide range of substance abuse and mental health issues, such as ‘Mad Men’ for Alcoholism, ‘Nurse Jackie’ for Drug Addiction, ‘Drop Dead Diva’ for Bipolar Disorder, and ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ for Veteran PTSD.
NBC’s ‘Parenthood’ was a multiple PRISM winner for Drama Series Multi-Episode Storyline: Mental Health, Seasons 1 and 2, and Ensemble Performance in a Series, in their depiction of Max Braverman’s Asperger Syndrome and how it affects his entire family. Peter Krause, who plays Adam Braverman, Max’s father, was also featured in the showcase and talked about how the disorder affects the whole family. He said:
‘It’s not that they have to fit into a normal world, it’s that, the people who have a more normal set of mental functions actually have to do the adjusting, and become more patient to be able to communicate with each other.’
Max Burkholder, who brilliantly plays Max Braverman, didn’t really know a whole lot about Autism before doing the show and also commented in the showcase that his experience in the role has been a real eye-opener.
Autism Speaks reports via their website:
One in every 110 children is diagnosed with Autism, making it more common than childhood cancer, juvenile diabetes and pediatric AIDS combined. And, an estimated 1.5 million people in the US and tens of millions worldwide are affected by Autism.
‘Parenthood’, is not only educating those unaffected by the disease, but it is also giving those individuals and families affected by Autism a family to relate to each week. This is a fundamentally beautiful thing.
Celebrating the Art of Making a Difference
Per the PRISM Awards website, the EIC has been using the PRISM Awards as a platform to ‘Celebrate the Art of Making a Difference’ since the awards were established in 1997.
While television and film are indeed popular entertainment mediums, the fact that they have the potential of reaching people on a massive, global scale, make them also a very important potential educational tool and means of communication.
Hats off to KaDee Strickland and the rest of this year’s PRISM Award winners for their dedication to using their craft to educate, effect change and offer hope and help to viewers in the areas of substance abuse and mental health. And hats off, also, to the EIC for recognizing their invaluable efforts.
Please keep doing what you do, the message you send is vitally important and the light you shine truly makes a difference.
Click here for a list of 2011 PRISM Award Winners.
Click here to visit the Entertainment Industries Council Website.
You can contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE. For more information on RAINN, visit their website.
For more information on Autism, visit the Autism Speaks website.