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Eliminating Mental Health Stigma - One Story at a Time

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Stigma is one of the main barriers that keep people from getting help for a mental health challenge, forcing many to suffer in silence.

Nine San Diegans, of all ages and ethnic backgrounds, decided to share their story of mental illness and recovery with the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency’s (HHSA) It’s Up to Us campaign. Their goal is to raise awareness about dealing with mental illness and how it is often a lonely experience, but their stories also give hope to people and let them know that recovery is possible.

“With the help of a treatment center and a lot of hard work, I completely recovered,” says Jamin in his story “Despite the Odds.” Jamin suffered from severe depression, which he overcame with the help of treatment and the support of his family. “People, can recover.  It happens all the time.” Jamin’s, and the other eight touching and uplifting stories, can be viewed at up2sd.org.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in four adults experiences a mental health disorder during any given year. The County’s It's Up to Us campaign was designed to empower San Diegans to talk openly about mental illness, recognize symptoms, and seek help.

“We want people to know that they are not alone. Help is available,” said Chairman Bill Horn, County Board of Supervisors. “The County is committed to providing quality mental health services to help individuals begin the road to recovery and lead more productive lives. But it takes every person in San Diego to make a difference in the life of someone who is suffering with mental illness.”

About 61,000 children, adults, and older adults benefit from HHSA mental health services each year. It is estimated that as many as 80 percent of people with a mental disorder can lead productive lives if they receive appropriate treatment. But many don’t seek treatment because of stigma and fear of rejection.

“The County’s Building Better Health initiative acknowledges that mental health challenges are just as important to address as physical illness,” said Nick Macchione, HHSA Director. “People often do not seek professional care or support, because of the stigma associated with having a mental disorder. Eliminating stigma is every person’s responsibility.”

Improving San Diegans physical and mental well-being is part of the Building Better Health component of the County’s Health Live Well, San Diego! initiative, a 10-year plan to improve health in the region.

“By raising awareness, educating the community, and providing easy access to local organizations and services, we initiate change in perception and reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness,” said Alfredo Aguirre, Director of HHSA’s Mental Health Services. “With 25 percent of adults suffering from a mental health disorder, it’s important for people to listen and reach out to those in need.”

Trained and experienced counselors are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at the County’s 24-hour, multi-lingual Access and Crisis Line at (800) 479-3339. Online resources are available at up2sd.org.