Conclusion of LEA

ODE (the Office of Diversity and Equity) has just wrapped up a five-part class called the Lived Experience Academy. The Academy is a course for people to learn how to tell their stories of lived experience for personal empowerment, community building, and local advocacy. For those unfamiliar with the term, “lived experience” refers to having first-hand experience with mental health challenges. We use the word “lived” to differentiate from mental health professionals or others who may have extensive experience of working with mental health conditions or systems of care, but have not lived through those challenges personally. This distinction is important because for most of history, and still today, people with lived experience have been stigmatized, disempowered, and told that others know what is best for them. Even after maintaining wellness and being in recovery, people with lived experience are often excluded from the workforce and discriminated against in other ways. One reason for this is because the narratives perpetuated about mental illness are often scary, violent, and overwhelmingly negative.

The Lived Experience Academy turns all of those negative concepts on their head. Here are our core values:

  • Lived experience is expertise.
  • Integrating people with lived experience into the workforce is a type of workforce diversity, and increasing all forms of workforce diversity is important.
  • Storytelling can be empowering, healing, educational, and destigmatizing.

The Lived Experience Academy gives people space to explore their past, present, and future, and craft a story that genuinely reflects their lived experience. Many of these stories do have sad, frightening, and ugly components to them. But when we dig deeper and open our lens wider, we find there is much more. There is hope. There is strength. There is resilience. By bringing those parts to light, we can bring mental health challenges out of the shadows. Our hope at the County is that by training people to share their stories of mental health recovery, we can reduce stigma, and give people with lived experience more opportunities to use their expertise to help others.

I want to offer heartfelt congratulations to our Lived Experience Academy graduates this year. Being part of this 10-hour class requires not just physical work to show up, but emotional work to be present. Thank you for showing courage, dedication, and determination throughout. Hope begets hope, and you have set that process in motion by sharing your truth.

Author: Mai Le

LEA 2017 Group Photo.JPG


March 23: Immigration Information Session

Attend this free information session to learn more about:

  • How to protect and prepare yourself in case of an immigration raid
  • Recent developments in immigration and executive orders
  • Requirements, benefits and process for applying for citizenship
  • How to prevent being victims of immigration fraud
  • Where to get the best legal help in your community
  • Upcoming free legal workshop dates and locations

March 23, 5PM at the Delaware Pacific Apartments, 1990 South Delaware Street, San Mateo, CA 94403.

Hosted by Services Immigrant Rights & Education Network, San Mateo County Latino Collaborative and MidPen Housing. For more information please contact Sandra Cruz al 408-453-3003 x 102,

View flyer – English, Spanish

March 20: Middle School Parent Resource Night

Learn about Cyber Bullying and how to help prevent it, recognizing signs of Drug & Alcohol use, and how to talk to your kids aboutSelf-Harm and Suicide.    Monday, March 20th, 6-8pm, Borel Middle School Library, 425 Barneson Ave., San Mateo.  (Open to Burlingame, San Mateo, HIllsborough , Foster City and Belmont communities.)

013017_middle school resource night

Print flyer:  English, Spanish

Why Don’t Teachers Get Training On Mental Health Issues

Earlier this month, I represented ODE at the first annual Pacifica Family Summit at Ingrid B. Lacey Middle School. The day featured workshops led by youth as well as adults on topics such as peer mentoring, meaningful youth engagement, substance use, and digital storytelling. It was a great start of a longer conversation among students, families, teachers, and school staff about mental health.

On one youth-led panel I attended on coping with stress, anxiety and special needs, a member of the school’s staff said that teachers and coaches often serve on the front line of mental health disorders: “Your child might not open up to you, but she’ll open up to me.” Which made me wonder, why don’t teachers receive more training on mental health issues, especially among adolescents?

An article on KQED News asks the same question. Author Katrina Schwartz notes that teachers have a lot of balls to juggle: “content standards, the social and emotional needs of students, behavior, and often trauma.” Citing an article originally published in The Atlantic, Schwartz also notes that more and more schools are using such evidence-based mental health programs as Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) and Trauma-Sensitive Schools. But without basic mental health training, “it is easy to confuse the symptoms of a mental health disorder with run-of-the-mill misbehavior.”

The Office of Diversity and Equity (ODE) offers a free, interactive course for schools in San Mateo County called Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA). This training is geared towards adults who work with youth, including classroom teachers, school site administrators, school office personnel, coaches, bus drivers, afterschool providers, teacher’s aides, school health aides, yard duty staff, crossing guards, parents, faith community members, and the general community. The course empowers adults to identify and respond to a young person (aged 12-24) who may be experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis/challenge or emotional distress. With YMHFA’s 5-step Action Plan, school personnel will be better equipped to identify signs, symptoms, and risk factors for mental health challenges that commonly affect our young people. Mental health literacy creates a safer, supportive, and inclusive school community by reducing stigma and increasing access to and knowledge about appropriate mental health services. YMHFA has made me a better listener and has encouraged me to bring more awareness to the stigma of mental health in our communities.  To date, San Mateo County has trained 1,538 individuals in Youth Mental Health First Aid.

To learn more about the program or to become a YMHFAider, contact Natalie Andrade at or 650-372-8548. If you prefer to watch a video about our MHFA program, click here.

Co-authors: Hillary Chu and Natalie Andrade

2017 Mental Health Month – Call for Narratives/Testimonials

Behavioral Health and Recovery Services is seeking short narratives/testimonies (200-350 words) related to mental health for 2017 Mental Health Awareness Month. Narratives/testimonies may be published in Wellness Matters (BHRS newsletter), posted online in the BHRS blog and in other San Mateo County communications and social media channels.

We seek a range of submissions reflecting diverse perspectives and personal experiences of mental illness, wellness and recovery and/or the impact that stigma has had on one’s life, from a consumer or family member perspective.

How to Submit:

  • Submission deadline: April 18th, 2017
  • Submissions and/or questions can be emailed to
  • All submissions will be published with first name only (or if complete anonymity is preferred please state so in your submission).
  • All submissions must be accompanied by a signed release giving us your permission to publish your story. The form can be found at:
  • All submissions are subject to review/editing/publication by BHRS.
  • Longer narratives (up to 500 words) may be submitted for consideration, however, are subject to editing for length.

March 15 NAMI Presentation: 21st Century Cures Act

21st Century Cures Act – John Snook, Executive Director, Treatment Advocacy Center

John Snook is making a special Bay Area appearance to discuss the  21st Century Cures Act.  The Treatment Advocacy Center, Arlington, Virginia, is widely recognized as one of the most influential mental health advocacy organizations in existence today.

On December 13, 2016 President Obama signed HR 34, the 21st Century Cures Act, which incorporates monumental bipartisan reform of our nation’s mental health system. These reforms include a host of Treatment Advocacy Center priorities, including provisions to increase the number of psychiatric beds nationwide, elevate the federal focus on mental illness by creating a federal position of assistant secretary for mental health and substance use disorders and to address the criminalization of untreated mental illness.

When:  Wednesday, March 15, 2017 from 6:00pm -7:00pm

Where: Hendrickson Auditorium, Mills Health Center: 100 S. San Mateo Drive, San Mateo.

Cost/Parking: Free & open to the public – Evening parking in front.

See flyer for more info.

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