In an effort to stop the stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness, the “Mental Illness: It’s not always what you think” project created a Stop Stigma Speakers’ Bureau. The speakers’ bureau is made up of everyday people who are living with mental illness or have family or friends who are living with mental illness. They are advocates for change, with a common goal: to stop stigma and discrimination against people living with mental illness.
The speakers’ bureau has 52 trained speakers and every potential speaker attends a four-hour orientation / training and participates in at least two practice sessions before speaking at an event. To date, the bureau has had 19 speaking events at various locations such as high schools, rotary clubs and California State University, Sacramento.
Ken Shuper, a Sacramento County resident living with bipolar disorder, became involved with the speakers’ bureau last spring after visiting the Stop Stigma Sacramento website. “It’s very hard to make a person change their mind; however, the speakers’ bureau reaches a large segment of the community and opens the possibility that some who has always looked at mental illness in a particular way might willingly alter their perception,” said Ken Shuper. “I carried my own stigma about it for a long time and have found that accepting my own diagnosis enables me to accept others.”
For more information on the “Mental Illness: It’s not always what you think” project and the Stop Stigma Speakers Bureau visit, www.stopstigmasacramento.org.