Message from René G. Santiago
May is Mental Health Matters Month. Our Behavioral Health Services Department has been leading efforts to help reduce the stigma around mental health. Stigma is when someone views a person in a negative way just because they have a mental health condition. Some people describe stigma as a feeling of shame or being judged by someone else. Fighting stigma is key to getting people the care they need and preventing suicides.
Last year the department conducted a successful campaign geared towards middle aged men, the group with the highest suicide rate in Santa Clara County. The Suicide Prevention communication work group used research to learn what messages and images would work best. This was important to reducing the stigma around seeking help for mental health issues. During the campaign the percentage of calls from these men to the Suicide and Crisis Hotline doubled. Because it was so successful, the campaign is set to run again.
The department is also working on a number of initiatives to encourage youth in our community to seek help. Since young people text more than make phone calls, a text crisis line will be added to Crisis and Suicide Hotline services. A social media campaign to young people will also be launched this summer. It’s a bit of a myth that more people attempt suicide in the winter and over the holidays. Unfortunately, suicides are attempted by all groups all year long.
Each year millions of Americans face the reality of living with a mental health condition. 1 in 5 Americans will be affected by a mental health condition in their lifetime and every American is affected or impacted through their friends and family. To help anyone in our community access services for themselves, family or friends, the department will be implementing a one phone number point of entry. This will go a long way in helping people get to the services they need.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death of youth ages 15-24 and the 10th leading cause of death for all Americans. These numbers demonstrate why these activities and so many other initiatives taken on by our Behavioral Health Services Department and their partners are so important to the health and well-being of our community.
You can help to reduce stigma and raise awareness about the importance of mental health. When you are posting or tweeting, spread the word by showing #MillionsLikeMe. You can also learn more about collaborative efforts at http://www.eachmindmatters.org/