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Bridging Communities to Wellness
Mental Health Awareness Month Aims to Reduce Stigma

Article Sylvia Tang, Community Health Planner

This May, San Mateo County celebrated Mental Health Awareness Month with the theme, “Bridging Communities to Wellness.” We wanted to recognize the importance of building connections within and between communities toward wellness and recovery, regardless of who we are or where we live in the county. It was encouraging to see the level of engagement across the county, particularly among marginalized communities.

We kicked off the month with a Board of Supervisors Proclamation on April 24 and Art of Wellness Festival on May 4, followed by 16 events hosted by a variety of county and community-based agencies. The second annual MHAM Mini Grant Program awarded $1,460 to seven organizations which hosted events across San Mateo County. We also distributed about 2,300 green ribbons symbolizing mental health awareness to event hosts, mini-grant recipients and other community partners.

Bridging Communities through Art

Events such as the Art of Wellness Festival, Queer Open Mic Night and Theatre of the Oppressed, lent an artistic lens to this year’s MHAM.

The Coastside Art of Wellness Festival was hosted on a Friday evening at Cuhna Intermediate School in Half Moon Bay. This English-Spanish bilingual event focused on bridging communities to physical & mental wellness through dance performances, photo galleries, open mic and wellness crafts. The event also offered an educational presentation on immigration and a resource fair. The festival was a collaboration between 13 agencies, co-sponsored by the Office of Diversity and Equity, District 3 Supervisor Don Horsley and Cabrillo Unified School District School Linked Services.

About 200 people attended and 20 organizations participated in the resource fair. The passion in the room was palpable, as attendees promoted and celebrated mental wellness in the Coastside community. Among survey respondents, 87 percent of attendees reported they learned where to find more information or resources on mental health, and 87 percent reported they are likely to use or share the information they received with others.

“Es un evento que dese traer mas a seguido a la comunidad, por que es un tema muy vulioso, que la comunidad nesecita saber mucho mas para poder ayudar a personas ajenas u este tema,” said one attendee, commenting on the importance of this event and raising mental health awareness in the community.

Celebrating Mental Health Awareness Year-Round

While there is a lot of energy in May to raise awareness and reduce stigma, I encourage all of us to recognize and honor MHAM throughout the year. Here are some ways you can do just that:

  1. Wear a lime green ribbon: Lime green represents the vibrant voices of those who face the darkness of stigma and discrimination against mental health or substance use issues. You can bring light to this cause by wearing a lime green ribbon. If you tag #BeTheOneSMC on social media, you can receive commemorative pin (as long as supplies lasts). Contact information is listed below.
     
  2. Educate yourself through trainings and personal stories: San Mateo County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services Office of Diversity and Equity offers these free educational opportunities to learn more about behavioral health and the experience of those with mental health and substance use issues. 
     
  3. Pledge to end stigma: Please take a couple minutes to sign a pledge against stigma and support wellness, hope and recovery.

For more information on May Mental Health Awareness Month and the year round effort to reduce stigma, you are welcome to visit smchealth.org/endstigma or contact Sylvia Tang at 650-578-7165 or stang@smcgov.org.

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