By Kelsey Turnbull-Pedrazzini, Community Connection Program Coordinator
When asking one of our participants about the challenges they face with a mental health diagnosis, stigma is often one of the first answers. Stigma is the negative or discriminatory ideas others have about someone with a mental health diagnosis. Self-stigma is the negative feelings or shame an individual has about themselves due to their mental health. Stigma can affect how members of the mental health community view themselves and how society and other communities treat them.
Stigma can feel overwhelming when you’re living with mental health challenges. At Community Connection, we battle alongside our participants to overcome stigma every day. Using a strengths focused approach in our programs, we help participants overcome obstacles and challenges related to their mental health in all aspects of life. It is our philosophy to lose the label of a mental health diagnosis and view each of our participants for who they really are – artists, musicians, poets, woodworkers, writers, kind and compassionate members of our community, and to help our participants view themselves through those lenses as well.
Recent tragic events stemming from gun violence have perpetuated mental health stigma. The idea that “it’s not a gun problem, it’s a mental health problem” is very harmful towards people in the mental health community and contributes to mental health stigma. According to the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence, people with a mental illness are much more likely to be victims of gun violence rather than being the perpetrator. Also, the likelihood of someone with a mental health diagnosis becoming violent is very low – only 4% of interpersonal violence is committed by someone with a mental health diagnosis.
One of the ways we celebrate our participants’ strengths and combat stigma at all levels is through our annual event, Celebrate Potential. Celebrate Potential is one of our most meaningful events for our participants because it’s their time to shine and be publicly recognized for their strengths and achievements in the community. Due to the pandemic, we have not been able to have this keystone event for the last two years and are elated to celebrate everyone in our community on Wednesday, July 27th 2022 from 11am to 1 pm at our North County Site: 300 Harvey West Blvd, Santa Cruz. We invite you to join us for inspiring stories of growth and recovery and meet some of the people working hard to combat mental health stigma every day. Contact us for more information about the event!
Mental health stigma can be overcome by using our strengths and natural talent to enrich our community and by spreading awareness and education. If you’re interested in learning more about mental health stigma, visit Psychiatry.org.