Everyone Counts!
Reducing Stereotypes and Negative Portrayals of People Living with a Mental Health Concern

Joe Anderson (center) in a LEVS Speakers Bureau training. Photo credit by PEERS.

“Everyone Counts is about all of us taking responsibility to end discrimination and improve the quality of life for the 1 in 4 Californians with a mental health concern,” said Tracy Hazelton, Prevention Manager for Alameda County Behavioral Health Care Services.

Funded by Mental Health Services Act monies, the Everyone Counts Campaign activities are designed to change attitudes towards people with mental health challenges. Below are examples of current Campaign activities.

Addressing Cultural Stereotypes

Negative perceptions about mental health are significant and keep many Chinese Americans from seeking needed services. In the Cantonese- speaking Chinese-American Wellness Support Group, people felt safe enough to share their stories and, in doing so, did not feel so alone.

“Saving face—the ability to preserve the public appearance of respectability—is extremely important to many Chinese Americans,” said Veronica Liu, a co-facilitator of the group. People receiving mental health services may not be willing to discuss their moods or mental health concerns because of shame and the fear of dishonoring their family. For participants, this support group was incredibly helpful in examining how community stereotypes impact the ways participants view themselves.

A new support group, held in Cantonese, begins on Sunday, Sept. 13. For information, contact Veronica Liu at 510-567-7624 or vliu@peersnet.org

Speaking Out against Stigma

Lift Every Voice and Speak (LEVS) is the Campaign’s Speakers Bureau. Individuals with lived experience of mental health challenges receive public speaking training and use these skills to speak before the public about their personal experiences with mental health.
Jenée Darden talks about the accomplishments of Lift Every Voice and Speak, a Speakers Bureau. Photo by Tue Nam Ton.

In the speaker training sessions, participants come to a new understanding of who they are. “People are able to talk about things that were traumatizing to them years ago,” said Joe Anderson, a Lift Every Voice and Speak member and program director of Black Men Speak. “People can relate to your experiences— substance use, homelessness, living on a fixed income. You no longer have to hold it to yourself and suffer privately.”

In the Speakers Bureau, participants have reduced their negative thoughts about themselves and improved the public’s understanding about what it’s like to live with a mental health concern. As Jeneé Darden, project coordinator, said, “It’s very liberating to say ‘I have this diagnosis, but it does not define me.’ “

For information or to host a presentation, call 510-832-7337.

Peers Envisioning and Engaging in Recovery Services (PEERS), a client-run nonprofit, manages the Everyone Counts Campaign.

For information, contact Kelly Robinson at 510-383-1792 or Krobinson@acbhcs.org www.alamedacountyevery onecounts.org


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