The Stand Against Stigma program is designed to promote the reduction of stigma and discrimination experienced by people suffering from serious mental illness and/or substance use disorders. This program incorporates several projects to raise community awareness and promote early intervention with treatment, including the Brave Faces Story Telling Project and Portrait Gallery, Hope is Alive! Open Mic Nights, an annual Minds Matter Mental Health Resource Fair, Minds Matter TV/Podcast, and the Get Better Together website. The projects include:
The campaign includes many facets. About 20 Shasta County residents, including individuals experiencing mental illness and family members, have participated in the Brave Faces Speakers Bureau by sharing their experiences with mental illness and substance use disorders to community groups, medical providers and classes around the county. Efforts are made to maintain a diversity in experiences (diagnosis, race, ethnicity, gender and sexual identity, spirituality, religion and more). The Brave Faces program also strives to represent recovery as a fluid process, being inclusive of people in all different places in recovery. On average, Stand Against Stigma conducts about 40 Brave Faces presentations a year, reaching close to 1,000 people. Stand Against Stigma also holds quarterly public forums about different mental health topics, featuring clinicians and Brave Faces speakers as panelists. The topics have included managing medications, the stigma of addiction and substance use disorders, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) and the importance of peer and family support. About 350 people have attended the forums. The Brave Faces Portrait Gallery provides a roving art display that illustrates true stories of hope and recovery, to promote the fight against stigma and increase community understanding of mental illness and suicide. These portrait galleries are placed in locations throughout Shasta County, including some of the more rural areas, and move regularly. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Stand Against Stigma activities moved online, including Brave Faces presentations and Becoming Brave trainings.
For the past six years, Stand Against Stigma has also sponsored the Hope Is Alive! Open Mic Night series around Shasta County. These open mic nights encourage performers to share music and poetry that have helped them through tough times. More than 1,600 people have attended the 22 open mic nights, and more than 20 of the regular performers have received Brave Faces speaker training and Question, Persuade, and Refer suicide prevention training to improve their mental health messaging in their performances. In 2019, Stand Against Stigma put on collaborative open mics at a screening of the S-Word, as well as with the Art from The Ashes project that featured artworks created by items salvaged by the 2018 Carr Fire.
Stand Against Stigma also organizes the Minds Matter Mental Health Resource Fair every year. Typically, about 40 exhibitors, which include community providers of mental health resources and information, attend the fair with attendance averaging about 500 people. The Fair also includes a Hope Is Alive! Open Mic as well as Brave Faces Advocate testimonials. Unfortunately, the 2020 Minds Matter Fair was cancelled due to COVID-19.
In 2020, Stand Against Stigma began organizing activities to help promote mental wellness for everyone and provide members of the community with practical skills to cope with stress and trauma. Workshops included journaling, meditation skills, and 8-week Mind-Body medicine groups.
Get Better Together (www.getbettertogether.net) targets teens and young adults. It aims to raise awareness of mental health issues and treatment available, promotes mental wellness through community support, and empowers youth to stand against the stigma that can be associated with mental illness. The website acts as a self-help tool and includes messages of hope, true stories of recovery, as well as information on community resources to help with mental illness.
To help guide Stand Against Stigma and to gather stakeholder input, staff coordinate the monthly meetings of the Stand Against Stigma Committee, which includes people who have or are struggling with mental health challenges, community educators, and mental health services providers.