We all experience challenges as a normal part of life. And over time we can learn skills to manage and overcome them in healthy ways. But all too often individuals with a mental illness diagnosis are perceived as being stuck and unable to successfully move through life’s challenges. And they face discrimination and prejudice, as a result of this misperception. The Alameda County Everyone Counts Campaign offers a different perspective. It promotes the messages that recovery is possible and that everyone can play a role in reducing the stereotypes and negative treatment that people with mental health challenges often encounter, from both society and also from internalized feelings of low self-worth.
The Alameda County Everyone Counts Campaign, formerly known as the Social Inclusion Campaign, is an effort of Alameda County, funded through the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) Prevention and Early Intervention (PEI), to reduce stigma, prejudice and discrimination and to increase social inclusion for individuals living with a mental illness diagnosis. This priority area was advocated for by the Pool of Consumer Champions, individuals with lived experience of mental illness and mental health services in 2008 and identified by the Ongoing Planning Council, a local stakeholder group for MHSA Planning as a key program area to support.
The Campaign advocates for inclusive communities, cultures of awareness, and skillful discourse in which people with mental health issues define themselves rather than be defined by other’s limited views of their life experience. The Everyone Counts campaign champions the idea that opportunities to live, love, learn, lead, work, pray, and play are essential quality of life choices for everyone.
The Campaign model incorporates three strategies, connected by Pat Corrigen’s TLCᵌ Method (Targeted, Local, Continuous, and Credible Contact): Outreach, Education and Training; Media; and Empowerment and Spirituality.
Outreach, Education and Training: This component, which includes culturally and linguistically appropriate trainings, workshops, committees, speaker’s bureau, and information distribution, provides the campaign’s first opportunity for contact with and between individuals with lived experience of mental health services and their families and other community members, community-based advocacy organizations, and service providers.
Media: The media component is an opportunity to shape a targeted positive message about individuals with a mental illness diagnosis and features the Campaign’s website and collateral materials as well as locally produced programming. Alerts track and respond to how mental health is portrayed in the media and support the inclusion of positive, supportive messages that uplift and encourage understanding and inclusion.
Empowerment and Spirituality: Using strengths-based trainings, sharing personal stories of wellness and recovery, and promoting modeling through peer contact, empowerment and spirituality values the importance of self-discovery. It lifts up personal resiliency, talent, capacity and uniqueness as a force against intolerance and negative treatment.
The campaign addresses discrimination and social exclusion by engaging key stakeholder groups – unserved, underserved, and inappropriately served consumers, family members and “power group” members, those in positions to positively impact discriminatory practices and policies. It has convened these individuals into “Action Teams” to uncover, highlight, and reduce the effects of discrimination on mental health for consumers in the African American and Chinese American communities, and for members of local housing and primary care organizations. The campaign is committed to continuing to expand to include new stakeholder groups with unique expertise and insight into what is needed to better serve communities.
Anyone can experience mental health challenges. Everyone counts to make respect and understanding available no matter what.