Hope For Change Photovoice Series

A group of dedicated consumer leaders from the Lived Experience and Education Workgroup (LEEW) worked together to explore the ways in which they find hope. They examined their own lives, reflected and shared with others in order to attune with, photograph and then write about the sources of hope that each ones has, and from where each finds meaning and orientation. The LEEW members hope this collection of pieces will help viewers learn about their lives and the integral role that hope has in their lives in recovery.

This Photovoice Workshop was possible with the help of the Office of Diversity & Equity and the Office of Consumer &Family Affairs.

To see the full Photovoice series and past series, visit on our Storytelling Program site. You can also find this full series attached below.

Free COVID-19 Vaccine Clinics: May 6-9

All are welcome to the upcoming free vaccine clinics for individuals age 16+, regardless of immigration status. The clinics will be held from May 6 to 9 in the following cities:

  • Thursday & Friday, May 6 & 7 – Daly City
  • Saturday, May 8 – East Palo Alto, San Mateo and South San Francisco
  • Sunday, May 9 – Redwood City

Register for an appointment – walk ups are also welcome.

ICYMI: Watch the 2021 Mental Health Month Livestream Kick-Off: #HopeForChange 💚

If you weren’t able to join us last Saturday, you can watch our 2021 Mental Health Month Kick-Off event here! Look forward to guest speakers commemorating May Mental Health Month, a delightful cooking demo, a calming nature meditation, and debunking of common myths about mental health.

For the full list of free virtual events happening throughout the month of May, visit SMCHealth.org/MHM.

#HopeForChange: Consume Content That Uplifts you

#HopeForChange for your wellness and switch up the content you are consuming. A 2012 study, “identified the power of films that elicit ‘elevation,’ the warm, uplifting feeling we get when we watch someone perform deeply moral acts…”

View https://bit.ly/3tsf8sx for a list of uplifting books, movies, and TV shows: P.S. Be sure to check in with your local library to borrow one of these! You can check out physical books or audio books at your local library!

For more info about Mental Health Month and our free virtual events, visit SMCHealth.org/MHM.

💚 Happy 1st Day of 2021 Mental Health Month!

Each year, San Mateo County joins our state and country in celebrating Mental Health Month (MHM) in May. MHM is one of the best times of the year to increase awareness and inspire action to reduce stigma against those with mental health and substance use conditions.

This year’s theme, aligned with the statewide theme, is #HopeForChange. The past year has undoubtedly brought unanticipated changes for us as individuals, families, and communities–leaving us to face these challenges and transform. Change is not always planned. Growth can be powerful and empowering. It can also be uncomfortable. #HopeForChange reminds us to spread and rely on the hope that carried us through a year of change.
Despite everything that makes us different and unique, we would like to take this opportunity to unify our San Mateo County community around mental wellness and recovery.
For more info about MHM and our free virtual events, visit SMCHealth.org/MHM.


County Breaks Ground on New Facility with a Focus on Wellness, Recovery

On April 12, 2021, advocates for the mentally ill, treatment providers and local officials celebrated the groundbreaking for the new $105 million Cordilleras Mental Health Center, located on 20 acres of unincorporated land between San Carlos and Redwood City. When it opens in 2023, it will replace the current facility that opened in 1952 as a tuberculosis hospital and transitioned to a mental health facility in the 1970s. Learn more about this project.

Tobacco Education Coalition Celebration

The San Mateo County Tobacco Education Coalition will be hosting a community celebration to honor their collective work toward their vision of a tobacco-free community. They will celebrate the advancement of campaigns that help smokers quit and protect the health and well-being of all non-smoking youth and adults, and honor and acknowledge youth, young adults, organizations, and champions that have elevated tobacco education initiatives, policies and practices that protect the health of San Mateo County residents. Register to join the celebration on May 5 at 3 PM.

Health Ambassador Program Partners with HPP to Bring Ambassadors to Vaccine sites

As vaccination efforts continue in San Mateo County with a focus on equity, the health ambassadors offer a warm smile and support to those who are waiting their turn in line, and those who have just been vaccinated. The Health Ambassador Program (HAP) that is housed under the Office of Diversity and Equity has partnered with Health Policy and Planning (HPP) to bring health ambassadors to vaccination sites. The Health Ambassadors are highly skilled community members who complete at least 5 mental health courses including the Parent Project, Mental Health First Aid, Wellness Recovery Action Plan and many others. This program is part of the community empowerment branch of ODE, and they serve to increase community awareness of services available in San Mateo County and connect individuals with support, help reduce stigma around mental health and substance use, and improve the ability of community members to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental health and substance use challenges.

The Health Ambassadors are a vital resource, the COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging for many reasons and because of the grief, financial loss and isolation we have seen a rise in anxiety and/or depressive disorders. Last July, 40% of US adults reported struggling with mental health or substance use. [1] Additionally, young adults, people of color, and essential workers, reported disproportionately worse mental health outcomes, increased substance use and suicidal ideation.[2] Access to resources is also an issue, communities of color have historically faced challenges accessing mental health resources. The Health Ambassadors are peers, and well-known members of their communities that know firsthand how essential it is to have access to mental health resources. Cyntia, who has helped with vaccination clinics in East Palo Alto and Belle Haven shares with us, “before the pandemic, people didn’t even want to accept materials that had mental health information on it. They would tell us ‘I don’t need that, I’m not crazy.’ But the pandemic has changed things, no one has turned away any of the materials we are giving out. I think people are realizing that we all need help sometimes, and that there is nothing to be embarrassed about.”

HAPs bring a wealth of knowledge to their work. Many of them are consumers of services or family members of someone that has experienced mental health or substance use challenges. Additionally, many of them are bilingual and enable us to increase our language capacity at the vaccination sites. They have also been able to hand out information about county wide resources for food insecurity, housing as well as financial resources. Amada, who has been a health ambassador for years stated that “even just asking people how they are doing makes all of the difference. There are some people that come to get a vaccine and are really scared of the symptoms they will experience. It helps to calm them when I can tell them about my own experience, and they can visually see that I am okay.” Also, “there has been so much sadness from unemployment, grief from losing loved ones as well as anxiety about getting sick in our community, but we are seeing hope at the end of all of this.”

Cyntia, Amada and Lourdes all became HAPs because their children were going through a difficult time and they needed more tools in order to be able to help them. “I am worried about the youth; I became a HAP to help my daughter when she suffered through mental health challenges and I fear that the youth are really suffering during this time.” Pediatric mental health related emergency department visits have increased for youth 5-11 and 12-17, 24% and 31% with youth of color and LGBTQ youth being at a heightened risk of suicidal ideation even before the pandemic.[3] Community members that are well informed about mental health and help break down stigma, and support people in accessing services are vital especially during this time. If you are interested in becoming a Health Ambassador and supporting your community more information can be found here.

[1] Mental Health, Substance Use and Suicidal Ideation during the COVID-19 Pandemic ( https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6932a1.htm)

[2] The Implications of COVID-19 for Mental Health and Substance Use https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/the-implications-of-covid-19-for-mental-health-and-substance-use/#:~:text=During%20the%20COVID%2D19%20pandemic,largely%20stable%20since%20spring%202020.

[3] https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6945a3.htm

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