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Mental Health Matters to Our Community

Article Sylvia Tang

During this past May, Mental Health Awareness Month (MHAM), San Mateo County celebrated mental wellness and recovery with community partnerships, voices and action. Through my role in planning MHAM events and other stigma reduction efforts, I am excited to see that, more than ever, mental health matters to our community!

I am impressed by the level and diversity of involvement with local community partners, including elected officials, government agencies, schools, libraries and community-based organizations. We kicked off the month with a Board of Supervisors Proclamation and Mental Health Resource and Art Fair, followed by at least 20 events hosted by a variety of community partners and organizations.  Many community leaders also participated in the County’s inaugural MHAM Mini Grant Program which awarded $1,000 to four collaboratives in the north, central and southern county regions.

Over 150 people attended the Mental Health Resource and Art Fair, co-hosted by the College of San Mateo, which was held for the first time at the College.  We were excited that many students participated in the event which featured resource tables, art displays and activities, food, raffle prizes and more. Attendees participated in activities such as shared behavioral health stories and learned about valuable county resources. Fifty participants made a personal pledge to help end stigma at the Be the One photo booth (see photo gallery at link below) and another 28 shared their story at the Pop Up Photovoice booth.  87% of the attendees reported that they learned where to find more information or resources on mental health, while 84% reported they are likely to use or share the information they received with others. 

Despite the stigma around mental health and addiction, many community members shared their voices and lived experience with mental health challenges and addiction through speaker panels, photo voices and film screenings during the month. MHAM featured voices from a variety of perspectives including clients, family members, clinical providers, non-clinical providers and community members. Regardless of the storytelling medium or perspective, the act of speaking up and sharing our voices benefits everyone.

Inspired by community voices and stories, many people who work or live in San Mateo County were ready and eager to do something to eliminate the stigma and discrimination against those facing mental health and substance use conditions. One small, but influential way to show support is to wear a lime green ribbon, which represents mental health awareness. Our County distributed over 1,000 ribbons during  MHAM. Another opportunity to take action is to take a photo with our Be the One Photo Booth and pledge to help fight stigma surrounding mental illness. This May we hosted the photo booth at seven events. See the many folks who created personal photo pledges to help end stigma. 

This year’s Mental Health Awareness Month was filled with creativity, resilience and unity around the cause of ending stigma. I hope we continue to build on the momentum that mental health matters to our community every May and every day.

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