The only way to break down a stigma is to share real stories. To openly talk about a taboo problem is to sap it of its power.
This Is My Story, a youth mental health initiative in Orange County Florida, aims to do just that: get people in the Central Florida community to start talking about mental health. Stigma is the number one reason why people with mental health issues don’t seek help. To combat that, we slugged around a six-foot corkboard to college campuses and community events and asked people to anonymously share their own experiences with mental health. Cool thing is–it worked.
The reason we’ve been able to drive participation in this campaign is that we’re leveraging three of the almighty Twelve Determinants: control, self-standards and norms.
- Control: We’re removing the barrier to communication by starting the conversation, but we’re giving people the choice to engage with us and tell their personal stories on their own terms. We provide them with prompt cards to guide them, but the story is written by them.
- Self-Standards: Who doesn’t like to think of themselves as altruistic? A big part of our message with this campaign is the reciprocal benefit of sharing stories: This Is My Story provides an opportunity for people to help their peers, and in the process, help themselves.
- Norms: The board does a great job of personifying the community aspect of the campaign. Individuality be damned, people like to feel that their actions will ultimately be accepted by their peers, especially when talking about a topic that has been stigmatized for years. Seeing that their peers were comfortable enough to tell their stories gave participants permission to share.
This one campaign in no way solves the broader issues surrounding how society views mental health, but creating space to tell real stories is a good place to start.