Author Archives: Siavash Zohoori

Foster Youth Pop-Up Art Museum

Hosted by Supervisor Don Horsely, the Independent Living Program, and ODE Storytelling, the Foster Youth Pop-Up Art Museum brought community together. With hopes that this becomes an annual event, the night focused on building hope and celebrating the success of the foster youth community, as well as learning ways to better support foster youth.

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Arab American Heritage Month

April marks National Arab American Heritage Month. Included in the California Senate Resolution are the acknowledgements that Arab Americans have been making valuable contributions to every aspect of American Society, set fine examples of model citizens, bring resilient family values, strong work ethic, dedication to education, and more. Read about the resolution here.

Here at the Office of Diversity and Equity (ODE), we are working to also recognize and support the Arab and Arab American communities.

In collaboration with ODE, BHRS, and the Arab Workgroup, students in the Middle Eastern Student Association (MESA) at Jefferson High School shared their stories. The students shared their stories in response to the framing question, “What does mental wellness look like in you community?”.

The students shared that they feel “othered”, that they are challenged with balancing expectations from two cultures, and that they are hopeful with their faith in Allah.

Sharing these stories is important for many reasons, including building visibility and recognizing the lived experiences of a community who’s stories are marginalized. As you read these stories, think about how you show up for our Arab and Arab American colleagues and consumers.

Similarly related, the U.S. government classified people of Middle Eastern descent as “white” since 1970. This has made it challenging to get an accurate count of Arab Americans in the U.S. and to determine how members of this population are succeeding financially, academically, etc. ODE is challenging this in our own health system by working with the Arab Work Group to add an option to the race/ethnicity demographic form that distinguishing Arab and Arab Americans from Middle Easterns. With this, we will be able to keep better track of the services we provide to ensure that we provide equitable care to all communities!

Black History Month Kick Off: Substance Abuse and Suicide Photovoices

AACI’s Black History Month kick off event included informational keynote speakers, activities for children, resources, and powerful storytellers. Of the powerferul storytellers were three individuals who created Photovoice projects about Substance Abuse and Suicide.

In collaboration with the Office of Diversity and Equity, Service Connect, and the African American Community Initiative, this group of storytellers came together to share the ways that they have been affected by the issues of substance abuse and suicicdal thoughts. At the Black History Month kick off event, the storytellers shared their photovoices and sat on a panel to answer questions and discuss the way the topics of their photovoices interact with the African American community.

Some shared the way that substance abuse has affected their relationships, growth, and responsibilites. Others shared that they wish their families and community members would be more open about suicide and other mental health issues so that they would feel more supported to cope with those stigmatized issues.

To view last year’s Black Lives Matter photovoices, click here.

Facebook’s AI Can Detect and Intervene in Suicide

Facebook’s new “proactive detection” artificial intelligence (AI) technology will scan all posts for patterns of suicidal thoughts. When necessary, they will send mental health resources to the user at risk or their friends, or contact local first-responders. By using AI to intervene in concerning posts instead of waiting for users to report concerning posts, Facebook will decrease how long it takes to send help.

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On Hate and Bias: Youth Speak Out

Youth at San Mateo County’s Youth Services Center (YSC) shared their stories in a Photovoice program hosted by the Office of Diversity and Equity (ODE). Youth members responded to the question: “What do you wish for your future?” and “Do you feel like you have control over your future?” Youth expressed unmet needs to have their strengths and values recognized, that they are often portrayed as ‘problem children’, that they enjoy mental health services, and that they have been affected by trauma— their mistreatment a consequence of hate and bias. They worked hard to create the best Photovoices they could. Read more

ODE’s Storytelling Program: Our Accomplishments for the Past Year!

The ODE storytelling program hosts a space in which people share their stories of recovery and wellness to make a meaningful impact on themselves and others. Participants engage in workshops that guide them in creating and sharing their stories in different forms. Beginning simply with a story circle or a framing question, participants continue developing their narrative as a digital story or a Photovoice project. Photovoice and Digital Storytelling are workshops in which participants share their stories of wellness and recovery. As final projects, Photovoice participants produce a single-page layout of a photo and short written piece and Digital Storytelling participants produce a 3 minute video.

This past year, we accomplished a lot and we are so excited to share: Read more

Lived Experience Education Workgroup PUPs: How to be a better ally

By Austyn Lee, Office of Diversity & Equity Summer Intern

On Tuesday, September 5th, the Office of Diversity and Equity (ODE) captured the stories from the Lived Experience Education Workgroup (LEEW) through PUP, which is short for Pop-Up Photovoice. In a PUP, participants pair their short, written piece with a photo of themselves or an image that they feel represents their message. For this PUP, stories shared anonymously were paired with either the purple and teal ribbon for suicide prevention or the green ribbon for mental health awareness. Because September is Suicide Prevention Month as well as Recovery Month, the framing question was: “What do people need to know about your lived experience in times when you may need more support?” Read more

ODE is looking for new interns!

As we bid farewell to our wonderful interns, Austyn, Valerie, and Karla, we open our doors to a new group of interns. Today, our interns shared a presentation on the work they’ve accomplished in their time at ODE. In their weeks here, they worked to strategize on the Arab-American working group, created a video about why sharing gender pronouns are important, supported Mental Health First Aid Classes, created data interpretation systems for some of our programs, and more! We are truly proud of and excited for them.

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For those interested in applying to our internship program read more!

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In Support to Those Affected by The Decision to End DACA

The federal administration announced yesterday (September 5, 2017) that it will end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. This puts an expiration date on the legal protections granted to “DREAMers”, individuals who entered the country as children without documentation. In many communities, including San Mateo County, this is a time of uncertainty and fear for young people previously protected by DACA and their families.

The Office of Diversity and Equity (ODE) staff sends our compassion to those who are affected by this decision. We also affirm our dedication to diversity and multiculturalism, to building bridges, and to equity. Read more

Lady Gaga is Using her Voice for More than Music

In an effort to reduce the stigma that is commonly associated with mental illness, Lady Gaga and her mom, Cynthia Germanotta, decided to provide as many people as possible with the necessary skills and information about mental health and how to provide help. Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation partnered with the National Council of Behavioral Health to bring Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) to all American cities on her Joanne tour at no cost to the participants. The foundation is committed to channeling kindness and is actively working towards its goal of training 150,000 in mental health by the end of the year 2017.

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Lady Gaga and Cynthia Germanotta

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