Stigma Series Begins at Skyline College

Since Fall 2013, Behavioral Health and Recovery Services (BHRS) and Skyline College have partnered to teach college students about the stigma of mental illness.  Joe Balabis from the BHRS Office of Diversity and Equity instructs the stigma series over five weeks during the Abnormal Psychology class taught by Professor Jennifer Merrill.  As part of the series, students learn about myths and facts of mental illness, and how stigma can impact individuals who struggle with mental health or substance use challenges.  The students also participate in an interactive Photovoice project where they take pictures and share stories of times when they have experienced stigma and discrimination.  The photo exhibits are then displayed on campus for other students to appreciate.

For students, the Photovoice project gives them a first-hand experience of what it feels like to be stigmatized and discriminated against.  This, in turn, helps them understand how someone with a mental health or substance use challenge experiences stigma.  At the end of the series, the students sign the Stigma Free San Mateo County pledge, which says that they will treat people with a mental illness or substance use problem with understanding and respect.  It is also a commitment to challenge the negative labels and stereotypes of mental illness that they may encounter from others.

The series began this semester on October 3, and the Photovoice exhibit is scheduled to be displayed on Friday, October 24 in Building 2, 2nd Floor at the Skyline College campus.  The exhibit will be on display for one week, and is open to the community.  Skyline College is located at 3300 College Drive in San Bruno.  For more information about this series, please contact Joe Balabis at jbalabis@smcgov.org or (650) 573-3474.