It is estimated that one in every five people will experience a mental illness during their lifetime. In Sacramento County alone, nearly 300,000 residents live with mental illness. But many do not seek support or treatment because they worry they will lose their jobs, their friends or family, or be isolated because of the stigma and discrimination associated with having a mental illness.
Sacramento County’s “Mental Illness: It’s not always what you think” project reaches out to diverse communities and lets family members, friends and individuals of all ages know that they are not alone. Support and resources are available in many languages and by visiting the website www.stopstigmasacramento.org, people can learn more about mental illness and mental health stigma, as well as organizations and resources that can provide support or information.
Now in the fifth year of the project, Sacramento County is celebrating the progress it has made to inform residents that mental illness is treatable and recovery is possible when education, family, peer and community supports are available and used. Since its inception in 2012, the “Mental Illness: It’s not always what you think” project has:
- Established a Stop Stigma Sacramento Speakers Bureau which has grown to more than 145 trained speakers, living with mental illness, who have shared their personal stories with over 8,000 people at more than 180 events and inspired hope for hundreds of others living with mental illness.
- Provided over 200,000 program materials, including brochures, posters and tip cards available in multiple languages, to nearly 100 community organizations and during project events reaching thousands of residents throughout Sacramento County.
- Promoted advertising throughout the County, featuring Sacramento residents living with mental illness, including multi-lingual TV, radio, online and outdoor advertising which resulted in over 476 million impressions.
- Hosted 20 multicultural events throughout Sacramento County with hundreds of local residents to raise awareness about mental illness and the project and to spread messages of hope.
- Developed a robust on-line presence and social media program which has resulted in more than 165,000 visitors to the website, over 8,000 likes on Facebook and 600 Twitter followers.
“Our project was initiated in direct response to Sacramento County Mental Health Services Act stakeholder feedback following the passage of Proposition 63,” said Uma Zykofsky, Sacramento County Behavioral Health Director. “Community leaders agreed that cultural, including LGBTQ, racial, ethnic and age-appropriate messages must be included with any mental health promotion and anti-stigma program.”
Lishia Rahman-Jackson, one of the project’s Speakers Bureau participants, shared her story on the project’s website: “I grew up in a household of substance abusers, was homeless and experienced anxiety and fits of anger and depression. I struggled with life but somehow found a way to finally get help. Seeking therapy and treatment or just calling someone doesn’t mean you’re weak. I wholeheartedly support Sacramento County’s ‘Mental Health: It’s not always what you think project.’ It inspired me to tell my story so I may help others struggling with mental illness come forward and feel better about themselves too.”
In celebration of its five year anniversary and in recognition of Mental Illness Awareness Week (Oct.1-7), a national observance sponsored by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the “Mental Illness: It’s not always what you think” project is hosting the “Journey of Hope: Real Life Stories of Living with Mental Health Challenges Portrayed Through Art” exhibit at the Elk Grove Fine Arts Center from Oct. 7-21. This collaborative exhibit is designed to bring insight and understanding about mental illness to the public through art. The art exhibition pairs local artists with writers who are willing to share their personal stories of struggle, hope and recovery with mental illness. Artists were then tasked with creating artistic portrayals of these stories. Sacramento County employees and residents are encouraged to view the exhibit to show their support for Sacramento’s mental health community.
For more information about the anti-stigma project or the Journey of Hope art exhibit, please visit www.stopstigmasacramento.org. You can also follow the project on Facebook and Twitter.