OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA  – In an effort to elevate mental wellness within the African American community, Roots Community Health Centers has launched a media campaign to destigmatize behavioral health in Santa Clara and Alameda counties.

African Americans with serious mental illness cited stigma (39.6 percent) just behind cost (40.8 percent) as the main reason for not seeking needed care, according to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration data published in 2021.

“It is essential that mental wellness is prioritized and embraced within our community of African descent,” said Dr. Noha Aboelata, Founding CEO of Roots. “For far too long, mental health has been a taboo subject, leaving many to suffer in silence even while surrounded by those who care. We want people to understand that mental health is as important as physical health for our overall well-being. ”

The campaign, using broadcast, cable, billboard and digital media, will make 23-24 million impressions and is designed to connect with African Americans using relatable language and recognizable context. Playing off the tendency within the community to downplay mental health challenges, like depression, the campaign affirms the need to move beyond stigma and begin real conversations with loved ones, friends or professionals.

In conjunction with the campaign, Roots is training health navigators, when engaged with patients, to reframe negative perceptions of mental health and contribute to better understanding of behavioral health in communities of African descent by using lived experiences and culturally affirming, African-centered outreach, engagement and messaging.

“Helping people become more open to mental health services requires educating people on what therapy actually is and what it isn’t. I believe a lot of people have this idea that therapy is only for severely mentally ill people but really it’s a safe space for anybody who wants to work through life hardships. We all struggle with things in life,” said Shanice Smith, behavioral health manager. “At Roots, we shift away from the common westernized approaches to services by making sure our therapists reflect the community, use relatable language to communicate with our members, and utilize African-centered strategies to address the specific needs of our community.”

The campaign, which includes a dedicated “Real Talk” mental health resource web page, is funded by a health partnership grant from the Health Trust of the Silicon Valley.

Contact: Terry Lightfoot | [email protected] | (209) 914-9307

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