Category Archives: Office of Diversity & Equity

Recognizing Success: CalMHSA PEI Report

During the 2015-2016 fiscal year, CalMHSA’s Each Mind Matters movement and 42 counties worked together to collectively pool a percentage of Mental Health Service Act (Prop 63) Prevention and Early Intervention (PEI) funding execute the first year of the Statewide PEI Project. San Mateo County contributed $90,508 in PEI funding to the Statewide PEI Project.  Leveraging these funds enabled the following six local agencies to receive support: San Mateo County BHRS, San Mateo Office of Education, San Mateo County Youth Commission, Summit Public Schools, Skyline College, and the College of San Mateo.

This Statewide PEI Project supported programs such as maintaining and expanding social marketing campaigns, creating new outreach materials for diverse communities, expanding the capacities of higher education schools to address stigma reduction and suicide prevention, and providing technical assistance and outreach resources to counties, schools, and community based organizations.

Technical assistance was a critical part of the Statewide PEI Project efforts to increase resources within each county through an assigned Resource Navigator.  First, San Mateo County’s Resource Navigator helped BHRS staff to discuss student mental health by connecting them to Dr. Patrick Arbor to explore suicide prevention for older adults and increased the outreach capacity for the county’s portion of the Know the Signs website ( It was with the help of the Resource Navigator that the Office of Diversity and Equity increased their efforts to disseminate information and promotional materials regarding Each Mind Matters, Know the Signs, and the Directing Change Program Film Contest, resulted in over 3,800 outreach materials and programs being shared throughout the county.

Specifically looking at Directing Change Program and Film Contest, there were a total of two films entered during the 2016 season: one from the San Mateo County Youth Commission, and the other from  Summit Public Schools (view one of last year’s submissions: Comparatively, the 2017 submissions for the film season increased to seven! While this is significant progress, ODE’s focus is shifting to creating an atmosphere that keeps Directing Change Program and Film Contest on the minds of schools and programs all year long, and our first step is to begin a tradition of hosting a celebratory regional film screening in May!

Visit the following links to learn more about the five other agencies supported by the Statewide PEI Project:

San Mateo Office of Education, San Mateo County Youth Commission, Summit Public Schools, Skyline College, and the College of San Mateo

Written by: Chenece Blackshear

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


Practicing Cultural Humility: To Be a Better Listener

‘Listen as if the speaker is wise’: an apprach often proposed in spaces of cultural competence and humility to be a better listener. Bringing patience, humility, and imagination, the phrase challenges people to a new style of listening. This phrase brings me back to my college professors, with whom I would listen so closely that I would recognize the nuance in their lessons.

Opportunities to be a guest in another culture, or listen to someone talk about their mental health, are rare — They are scenarios that are lacking in the lives of most people in the United States. With success, a bridge will be built to fill the previously present gap of empathy.

To recognize ourselves as a guest in one of these scenarios is an opporutnity to close our mouths, and open our ears. In other words, we must not mistake an opportunity to learn as a circumstance of entitlement to learn. To do so (and make the mistake) would involve taking up space through the questions of interest to us. Rather, we need to listen to the information that is present in the moment.

For some, this might mean “trusting the process” or “having faith”. To me, it’s about putting my anxieties to the side and following the lead of someone else, ultimately arriving at their truth.

Catholic Charities at SMHS Parent Project


2(Photo L-R):Felipe Navarro (Catholic Charities), Rocio Lemus (Parent Project Facilitator), Diana Otero (Catholic Charities), and Alexi Rosales (Parent Project Facilitator)

Due to a high level of fear and anxiety being experienced by families, on Tuesday, February 28th Parents Project participants received important information about current immigration policies and what to do if stopped by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  Diana Otero, Program Director for Catholic Charities Refugee & Immigrant Services in San Mateo County, began by asking parents how they were feeling about the current situation. She reminded the group that this is not the first time immigrant communities have been targeted. Parents were encouraged to 1) know their rights, 2) be prepared, 3) become a legal resident, if possible.  More importantly, to not let fear paralyze them from seeking accurate information and preparing for the future. With the message “don’t stress, plan,” the presentation concluded with a call to action, parents were given the phone number to Congress and asked to call each day to ask for immigration reform.  Many parents expressed feeling less anxious and more reassured after the presentation.

For more information about the Parent Project, contact Frances Lobos at


Black Lives Matter Photovoice

Check out the photovoice projects created in our Black Lives Matter program. We will be showing them, as well as hosting a Q&A panel of the storytellers, at the “Mind, Body & Spirit Matters: Black History Month Health Fair” on February 25th. Click here for more details!

Increasing Shared Empowerment and Responsibility: My Quest as a Mental Health First Aider

The week of January 29th was the first full week of classes at San Jose State University (SJSU). Personally, I was feeling scattered from trying to organize my life around balancing a full load of classes with my ODE internship and two other jobs. As I connected with my friends and new classmates, they spoke of experiencing similar stressors. Then suddenly the busy buzz within our campus atmosphere came to a standstill and was replaced with a feeling of somber eeriness. That Wednesday, everyone on campus received an alert stating our Martin Luther King, Jr. Library would be shut down for the rest of the day due to an investigation. Hours later we all were notified that the investigation because someone had completed suicide.

Our community’s emotions were stirred. This event marked the second suicide completion in our eight story study sanctuary. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Library is the heartbeat of Downtown San Jose and it has welcoming arms to the general Downtown San Jose neighborhoods, in addition to servicing students. The victim who completed suicide was a member of the general San Jose community. As my peers and I discussed our feelings regarding the event, I noticed that our campus community was experiencing a different and heightened sense of emotional vulnerability. It was a sense of helplessness.

However, in addition to feeling vulnerable, I felt frustrated because I realized that very few people I talked with knew how to identify signs of someone in crisis, despite the many supportive resources SJSU offers. Our campus has an amazing counseling and wellness center; our professors strongly advocate on behalf of those services, and our syllabi are required to state all of the ways students can get the support needed to overcome adversity. Still, I don’t believe many people on campus know what to do to help others.  Frankly, until I began my ODE internship I wouldn’t have known how to identify a person in crisis, either — let alone what I could do and say to help them. Being trained as a Mental Health First Aider within my first month of work really empowered me to understand how much of a difference I can make in my community’s life. So, in my conversations with others, I voiced my concerns and desire to create a change in our campus culture by breaking down the beliefs that only licensed professionals can impact the wellness of our campus community and neighborhoods. I voiced my desires to help publicize our campus need for Mental Health First Aid training for students and faculty.

Thanks to being a Mental Health First Aider, I feel empowered to fight for my community to increase its ability to prevent and intervene in suicidal acts on our campus. We owe it to both students and community members to create as many protective factors as possible.

To learn more about Mental Health First Aid trainings in San Mateo County, contact Natalie Andrade, Program Coordinator – Office of Diversity and Equity,, or  visit .

Chenece Blackshear, ODE


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