Q: Why did your organization become a member of The Anti-Stigma Coalition?
St. Joseph’s University Parish formed our Mental Health Committee during the summer of 1999 in response to a parish survey which identified that we were not doing anything to welcome people with mental illness, reduce stigma, or offer resources to caregivers. The Committee is rooted in our belief in the sanctity of human life and the inherent dignity of the human person is the foundation of all the principals of our social teaching. The human person is the clearest reflection of God among us. Each person possesses a basic dignity that comes from God, not from any human accomplishment or quality. We believe that every person is precious, that people are more important than things, and that the measure of every institution is whether it threatens or enhances the life and dignity of the human person.
The Anti-Stigma coalition shares in the mission of our committee to create an environment of hope, understanding, welcome and compassion to increase the acceptance of all individuals and families affected by mental health concerns. We work to reduce the stigma of mental illness, educate about services available in the community, provide an alternative prayer service, and advocate for changes in legislation. Our committee is comprised of people that work in organizations that support mental health, have family members or have personally been impacted by a mental health issue. The diverse perspective in our committee allows us to consider all the different facets of mental health to help guide our efforts to provide support to both our Parish an surrounding community.
Q: How are people with mental health challenges impacted by stigma?
One of our fundamental challenges is creating awareness in the community about services and resources available to help individuals and families. Unlike when you face other medical conditions like cancer or heart disease, people facing mental health challenges, and their families often have a hard time openly discussing their problems, seeking advice on doctors or resources available. It can be very isolating and intimidating trying to navigate that journey alone.
Q: What impact is the Campaign having in the community?
The campaign touches on so many of our shared goals. To talk more openly, we hope to create an environment of change, acceptance and support. We have partnered with The Anti-Stigma Coalition and other local organizations who are often members of the Coalition, by hosting speakers through community events and sharing materials with our Parish community. We also leverage our ST. Joseph’s University Parish social media platforms which reach up to 1,200 people in the community.