Bill Duke and William Michael Barbee (Courtesy photo)

On Thursday, April 25th, Actor Bill Duke and Filmmaker William “Michael” Barbee attended the 23rd Annual Erasing the Stigma Leadership Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

Actor Bill Duke, who starred in Barbee’s film “Beyond the Silence,” presented William “Michael” Barbee with the Erasing the Stigma Leadership Award for all he has done to erase the stigma of mental illness.

William “Michael” Barbee is an entrepreneur, mental health advocate and producer/writer/director of “Beyond the Silence,” a movie about how people are often incarcerated instead of treated for mental illness. Michael, who credits treatment for his recovery from depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and a suicide attempt at age 20, is passionate about helping others with mental illness. He makes a point of hiring employees who live with mental illness and created a nonprofit arm of his transportation company to help people with mental illness get to their counseling appointments. He has written two books with mental health themes, serves on the Mental Health Association of Essex County Board of Directors and was honored at the 2013 Governor’s Council on Mental Health. Barbee’s film, “Beyond the Silence,” is set to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2019.

The Erasing the Stigma Leadership Awards is an annual fundraiser for Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services.

Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services is one of the nation’s leading providers of community mental health, substance use and suicide prevention services. Dedicated to serving communities where stigma or poverty limits access, the agency has been transforming lives for more than 75 years through its innovative and comprehensive approach to care. Today, Didi Hirsch helps over 120,000 adults and children annually from 10 locations and nearly 100 schools in Southern California.

Didi Hirsch’s 60-year-old Suicide Prevention Center – the first and most comprehensive in the United States—celebrated the grand opening of its new home in Century City in February 2019. The standalone building nearly doubles the number of people answering its 24/7 multilingual Crisis Line, a key member of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and offers individual and family therapy for those who need more help than support groups can provide. Each year, the Center trains over 10,000 students, teachers faith-based groups, business people and first responders how to recognize and respond to warning signs. It is also developing certified training for mental health professionals to build a larger network of therapists who know how to aid people in a suicidal crisis. Learn more at