SECOND ANNUAL LETS SUMMIT HONORS ANTI-STIGMA CLUBS
By Kathleen Piché, L.C.S.W., PIO Director
On May 23, 2012, over 400 students, school personnel, dignitaries, clinicians and celebrities met to honor and encourage LETS (Let’s Erase The Stigma) clubs in high schools across the country. The event, held at the California Endowment, was co-sponsored by Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health (LACDMH).
Chief Deputy Director Robin Kay opened the event by talking about the small steps we can all take to spread awareness and acceptance of mental health issues and the importance of telling personal stories in erasing the stigma associated with mental illness.
Next, Dr. Stephen Hinshaw, U.C. Berkeley School of Psychology and LETS Co-Director of Research, spoke about the groundbreaking results of a pilot study done with the youth in LETS clubs over the past year. What he found was that LETS club members’ attitudes and beliefs toward those with mental illness improved, and that the social distance between them and those with mental illnesses decreased. Dr. Hinshaw believes that young people can change the future by having a better understanding of these issues. Learning about mental illness alone has not proven to change the stigma attached to mental illness. What does work is having an understanding of the issues along with empathy for those suffering.
Glenn Close, award-winning actress and founder of Bring Change 2 Mind, a national anti-stigma campaign aimed at removing misconceptions about mental illness, spoke about her sister Jessie’s journey with bipolar disorder and her nephew Calen’s experiences with schizoaffective disorder. Miss Close said, “I am fascinated by ending stigma and discrimination.” With Bring Change 2 Mind, she has brought together researchers from around the world in hopes of “emerging as the world's most effective organization working to eradicate the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental illness through widely distributed Public Education Materials based on the latest scientific insights measured for effectiveness.”
Other speakers included:
Cara Santa Maria, who has a science column at the Huffington Post entitled Talk Nerdy to Me. Miss Santa Maria talked about her own debilitating depression and offered hope to those who might experience the same barriers.
Richard Patrick, rock band guitarist for Nine Inch Nails, Filter andArmy of Anyone, told his own story on how he avoided his real psychological issues by using alcohol.
Entertainment was provided during lunch by South El Monte High School youth performing a flash dance and a rapper from Didi Hirsch TAY in the courtyard.
After lunch, Christine Lu, from Affinity China, told the story of her sister, the “perfect Chinese daughter” who killed herself one month after getting married when, from the outside, it appeared she had the “perfect” life.
Flora Gil Krisiloff, Health Deputy from LA County Board Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky’s Office, joined LACDMH Director Marvin Southard to distribute awards to LETS clubs and individuals in the clubs who made a difference in their communities over the past year.