HEALTH & EDUCATION
The Stop Stigma Project
Sacramento County Department of Behavioral Health
In 2020, the murder of George Floyd brought worldwide attention to police brutality and the injustices Black Americans face on a daily basis. Systemic racism which manifests through inequitable economic systems and disparities across the spectrum from healthcare to housing is accepted as “normal.” However, the COVID-19 pandemic disportionately affected the Black community, with more Black people being diagnosed and dying from COVID-19. It was under this atmosphere in which the Sacramento County Department of Behavioral Health determined that it was vital to recalibrate the African American component of the Mental Illness, “It’s Not Always What You Think” campaign.
The countywide project of the Sacramento County Department of Mental Health Services, Division of Behavioral Health Services is designed to reduce stigma surrounding mental illness and to promote messages of wellness, hope and recovery. In order to properly recalibrate the African American messaging, the Department turned to community leaders, people with lived experience, providers, and those who minister to the spiritual hurts to ask for their guidance and insight.
In 2020, Young Communications Group, Inc. was contracted to lead a team of multi-cultural communications professionals to create a refreshed campaign that would address the current situation in the Sacramento Black community relative to mental health issues in general and specific to the current temperature of unrest and reckoning. In addition, Young was contracted to manage primary and secondary research, develop culturally authentic and relevant messages, and conduct community outreach and engagement.
In the African American community, the events that took place in the summer of 2020 are no less different than those that play out every day. For most Black people, their mental well-being is under constant attack. When examining the messaging developed for the 2020 Stop Stigma campaign, it became apparent that the current stressors needed to be interwoven into the messaging to make the messages more reflective of, and relevant to current events and considerations. In short, a more prominent emphasis on the current and historic anguish and traumas that the Black community experiences needed to be included in the messaging. Young developed a communications strategy that would acknowledge the African American/Black experience, target local and trusted leaders to provide insight, increase education about community resources, and ultimately encourage and normalize conversations around mental illness. The goal was to acknowledge how systemic racism and generational trauma has profoundly affected the mental health of Black and African American communities, while emphasizing tangible steps people can take to overcome and heal the emotional scars, and recognizing the legacy of resilience in the AA community.