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Coming Together to Stop Stigmas for Mental Health Month

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In recognition of Mental Health Month, several Sacramento organizations have come together to bring awareness, support and resources to the local community with Mental Health Matters Day on Wednesday, May 22 at the California State Capitol and Mental Health Matters Night on Friday, May 24 at the Sacramento River Cats game.

More than 40 statewide and local exhibitors will be on-hand for Mental Health Matters Day, which is free to the public and will take place on the east side of the California State Capitol between 9:30 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. With several speakers from all walks of life, including two-time Gold Medal Olympian and former Sacramento Monarch Ruthie Bolton, local activist Ebony Ava Harper and retired Loutenant Colonel Noel Lipana, the event aims “to strengthen our community and the movement towards ending stigma.”

With more than 300,000 individuals in Sacramento County living with mental illness, research has shown that only one-third will seek professional health due to some sort of stigma reagrding their mental illness.

Stop Stigma Sacramento is one of Sacramento’s voter-approved public programs that will be present at both events this week with members from their speakers bureau on-hand to provide a conversation with community members and offer ways they can join the program as consumers, and perspective speakers as well. La Viola Ward is one such speaker who recently completed her masters in clinical mental health counseling, having once been a mental health consumer herself.

As both events welcome individuals of all ages, Ward makes it clear that while the context and perceptions of treatment and the ability to understand what the individual is going through may differ depending on developmental levels, the symptoms are typically universal. However, she does believe cultural differences and socio-economic status tend to be the greatest barriers when addressing and treating mental health.

“Regardless of all those instances, mental health doesn’t discriminate, based on age, or culture, or money or anything,” said Ward during a phone interview. “So I think it’s important for us to be out speaking in different areas, different communities and with different age groups and cultures because ultimately we’re all going to be impacted by mental health in some way. Whether it’s ourselves or loved ones or co-workers, someone is going through something in any of those groups.”

On Friday night, tickets purchased to the Sacramento River Cats game, via the link provided, will support Each Mind Matters and the Sacramento County “Mental Illness:It’s not always what you think,” project to promote mental health and wellness in the local community.

For more information on Stop Stigma Sacramento and its many resources, visit StopStigmaSacramento.org.

For more information on Mental Health Day and how to register for free, visit MentalHealthMattersay.org.

Photo courtesy of Tim Marshall.

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