The speakers collective is made up of people who have experience with mental health challenges. Some may have also been homeless, had chronic disease, faced racism or family violence.
”Stigma is not about individual differences, but about the separation between people,” said Karen Diers, DHHS health education specialist. “The way to bridge that separation is to share personal stories. Sharing personal stories empowers the speaker as well as the listener.”
Collective speakers are available to meet with community members, school groups, health care providers, employers and others to talk about a variety of topics, including:
o Supporting recovery and wellness
o What it’s like to have a mental health diagnosis
o Transgender communities
o The value of support through shared experience
o Client empowerment
o Overcoming trauma.
There are currently five people participating in the collective. Organizers hope to recruit more members and have at least 10 speakers by the end of the year.
”I hope to reach out to young people who may believe their lives are over when they receive a mental illness diagnosis,” said collective member Diane Johnson. “I would like to show them that this is absolutely not true.”
Another member of the group says she was diagnosed with bipolar illness 30 years ago and has since earned a Ph.D. and is a tenured university professor. She has also earned a master’s degree in counseling. A third member facilitates a free depression support group and participates in a number of healing activities. She also writes poetry.
The $15,000 grant from the California Mental Health Services Authority will be used by the collective to develop outreach and education materials, trainings and stipends to eliminate barriers for speakers to participate.
For more information about how to schedule a speaker or to get involved, contact Karen Diers at 707-441-5553 or email at email@example.com.