January 20, 2016
Stigma and discrimination associated with mental health challenges are very real, and when someone discloses to others they have a mental illness it can lead to painful consequences, like losing a friend or even a job offer.
Yet opening up about a mental health challenge can also have tremendous benefits: Finding new support, reducing stigma and misconceptions about mental illness and feeling the relief of no longer having to keep a secret.
To help people negotiate the process of deciding to disclose, Stand Against Stigma has offered a series of Becoming Brave trainings that have been attended by more than 40 local residents and have given them a greater sense of empowerment and control of their stories with mental health challenges. The trainings are funded by the Shasta County Mental Health Services Act.
“The Becoming Brave program and training opened my eyes to a new depth of loving myself for who I am. I believe this because of its mission to be inclusive above all else,” said Amanda Flowers Peterson, a Brave Faces advocate and now a Becoming Brave facilitator.
“The best part of Becoming Brave was being able to stand in a room with people who have so many different stories and to feel the healing and love that was created with people who were once strangers,” said Chris Stampfli, a Becoming Brave Facilitator and participant in the MHSA Academy (pictured right).
Based on a curriculum developed by some of the most nationally renowned stigma reduction researchers, Becoming Brave gives guidance for 1) considering the pros and cons of disclosing 2) different ways to disclose and 3) telling your story to reduce stigma and educate others.
The training provides opportunities for participants to decide what is right for them and their situation. Some graduates of the program may decide to go on to speak publicly about their experiences with mental illness, while others may decide it’s best for them to only tell a few friends.
In July, 14 local residents were trained as Becoming Brave facilitators through a grant provided by the Bay Area non-profit Project Return Support Network and future trainings are in the works.
“The Becoming Brave facilitators are some of the most creative, inspiring and passionate group of mental health advocates I’ve had the pleasure of training. Shasta County is lucky to have a powerful group of new Becoming Brave facilitators who will guide other consumers on how and when to disclose their mental health issues,” said Kelechi Ubozoh, one of the July trainers and program associate at Resource Development Associates.
To learn more about the Honest, Open and Proud program (the curriculum which Becoming Brave is based), go here http://comingoutproudprogram.org/.
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