Across Orange County, the purpose of the green bench that pops up in various locations is pretty well known. In short, it means it’s OK to talk about mental illness. It’s OK to ask for help.
The green bench is a welcoming symbol of a commitment by Mission Hospital, St. Joseph Hospital of Orange and St. Jude Medical Center to reach out to the vulnerable through a program called Each Mind Matters. The goal is to reach out with compassion, to coax conversations that recognize the inner pain of mental illness and helps those who suffer know there is hope.
Mission Hospital adapted the statewide program in 2015 with the Promise to Talk campaign, and two years later the sister hospitals joined in to help lift the stigma of mental illness and to encourage mental wellness. The program is open to all but targets lower-income adults, specifically Hispanic and Vietnamese immigrants whose cultures, like many, have difficulty discussing mental illness and seeking help.
“We go to all types of events in Orange County, especially event where we know we will find parents. They are the critical connector for the family unit,” said Christy Cornwall, director of community health investment for Providence, the hospitals’ parent organization, in Orange County. “Parents are concerned about social media, depression, the pressures of being a child today, bullying, substance use, vaping…”
They are provided with resources including information about an app with links to services.
The program is promoted in several ways. Social media - Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube -have been successful in engaging community members. The community outreach team also attends local events and conducts face-to-face conversations to connect people to resources.
People also are encouraged to Make a Promise to talk about mental health. Since the program began, we’ve seen a 31 percent increase in affirmative response to the question asked in English and Spanish: “Are people in your community generally sympathetic to people who have mental illness. Last year 83 percent said “yes.”
Each Mind Matters is a statewide mental health campaign that recognizes mental health issues and encourages people to support one another. The goal is to help improve mental health and thus quality of life. The program is strengthened through work with community partners to increase awareness that mental health should be discussed and nurtured openly. The mantra is “Promise to talk and promise to listen!”
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