Why did your organization become a member of The Anti-Stigma Coalition?
JFS is a founding member of The Anti-Stigma Coalition. Former CEO, Marlene Schillinger, recognized the importance of being a leader in addressing stigma surrounding mental health and accessing services in the community and in response partnered with other agencies to create the coalition. As an agency that offers mental health services, JFS also recognizes its responsibility for leading and encouraging conversations about stigma, so people feel more comfortable accessing not just our services, but other available mental health services.
How are your clients with mental health challenges impacted by stigma?
Clients that access our services experience a variety of barriers including stigma. Stigma impacts engagement in services, effectiveness of services, and impacts communities differently depending on culture, language, and other community and individual characteristics. For many of our local refugee and immigrant communities, mental health is a complicated topic that holds a lot of stigma that stems from historical, political, and cultural persecution of individuals experiencing mental health challenges. Stigma creates fear of judgment from family and community and discourages individuals from seeking services.
What is your organization doing to address stigma and enhance mental wellness for the people you serve as well as employees and volunteers?
JFS continues to be a member of The Anti-Stigma Coalition and actively seeks out opportunities to discuss stigma through community psychoeducation, focus groups, and listening sessions with the community through our mental health-based programs in our clinic and our Refugee and Immigrant Center for Healing (RICH). RICH also provides training to mental health providers on working with refugee and immigrant populations. Our Trauma Systems Therapy for Refugee Youth program in RICH will be hosting a conference on November 18th: “Mental Health Stigma Across Cultures, Healing through Community Conversations”. More information to come. JFS also regularly communicates with staff and volunteers about mental health, self-care, and emotional wellbeing and offers services through the Employee Assistance Program for anyone in need of support. All staff are supported through individual supervision for additional one on one support.