Community members celebrated the success of the Join the Conversation campaign at a member breakfast on June 7 at WNED studios. The event focused on workplace wellness and encouraged companies and organizations to continue working to eliminate the stigma of mental illness. Krizia Williams of WKBW-TV served as emcee.
County Executive Mark Poloncarz talked about the tragic year that Erie County residents endured in 2022, and said the network for mental health support was already in place.
“Mental health is health, and the community now understands this. Your work is making a difference in people’s lives,” he said.
Melinda DuBois, chairman of the Coalition and Executive Director of Mental Health Advocates, provided highlights of the campaign since its launch in 2017. Today, the Join the Conversation campaign website has nearly 120,000 users. In the last twelve months we’ve had more than one half million Facebook impressions and 90,000 video views.
Mental health is health, and the community now understands this. Your work is making a difference in people’s lives
The Coalition has grown from 16 organizational founding members to 108 organizational members in 2023 and, as of today, 4,011 individuals have taken our online pledge to end stigma.
“Because of campaigns like ours, it’s more common—more open—to speak publicly about mental health issues, but we still have a long way to go,” she said. “We all recognize there will be many more challenges ahead that will impact the mental well-being of our Western New York Community and beyond. The Anti-Stigma Coalition is ready to face these challenges—with your support—by continuing the conversation. The goal remains—eliminate the stigma surrounding mental illness.”
Human Resource Director, Tops Markets
Featured speaker Chelsea Frank, Human Resource Director at Tops Markets, shared how Tops supported their associates after the horrific mass shooting at the Jefferson Avenue store.
“Tops provided a safe space for associates at the Merriweather Library and provided counselors and other services,” she said. “Being together and sharing stories provided a way for associates to move forward in healing.”
Frank shared that no company can ever prepare for a tragedy like this, so they created their own playbook. They focused on talking about it together and establishing community partners to assist in the process.
A panel discussion moderated by Karl Shallowhorn focused on workplace wellness, how companies can meet the needs of staff, and maintain a high performing organization.
Panelists included Megan Andrews, Director of Child & Family Services Employee Assistance Program; Sarah Rey, Corporate Wellbeing Consultant, Walsh Duffield Companies, Inc; Pete Rizzo, Vice President, GEICO Insurance Agency, and Katie Spillman, Principal, Mount St. Mary Academy.
Each panelist shared that mental health has become a critical component and talking about it is now acceptable. “It is physically and mentally healthy to be employed successfully,” said Andrews.
According To Rey, it is great to see that talking about mental health issues is happening, and recognizing that you are a more productive employee if you are not struggling with multiple health issues.
Special thanks to WNED for hosting the event and Deaf Access Services.