Learn more about #LookingBeyond stigma


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#LookBeyond loves to recognize organizations that take the pledge and become stigma-free zones!

Let the world know your organization is a safe, welcoming and positive space for people affected by mental illness, substance use disorders or disabilities! Click HERE to find out how!

VIDEO: SIX lives affected by stigma in Kalamazoo County

This six-minute video explains the #BeStigmaFree campaign through the voices of Mia, Anna, Latrieva, Michael, Isaiah and Amy. Whether due to mental illness, substance use or disability, these individuals and their loved ones have experienced “othering,” and they explain what it feels like in raw, honest language. Watch to learn why they believe it’s time to #LookBeyond stigma in Kalamazoo County.

Take a FREE Mental Health First Aid class:

Mental Health First Aid is an eight-hour training course available to the community. The program introduces you to common warning signs exhibited by someone who may be experiencing mental health problems. In this class, you'll learn:

  • Risk factors and warning signs for a range of mental health problems

  • Prevalence of various mental health disorders and the need for reduced stigma

  • A 5-step action plan encompassing the skills, resources and knowledge to assess the situation and help the individual in crisis connect with appropriate care

  • Evidence-based professional, peer, social and self-help resources available to help someone with a mental health problem.

Dates and registration info: kazoocmh.org/MentalHealthFirstAid.aspx

Helpful Information

To increase awareness and encourage action, we’ve gathered some stigma-related resources for specific communities. (If you come across a great resource you think we should list, let us know at hello@LookBeyondStigma.org.)

Resources For Everyone 

  • Recovery Institute’s PoWeR Group
    PoWeR (Peers in Wellness and Recovery) Group is a speakers’ bureau of individuals in recovery who speak at various educational, civic and social service organizations, telling their recovery stories in order to raise recovery consciousness, reduce stigma and eliminate discrimination. To arrange a PoWeR Group presentation at your school or organization, contact:
    Sharee' Niblack
    Recovery Institute of Southwest Michigan
    1020 South Westnedge
    Kalamazoo, MI 49008

  • Support for Family Members & Caregivers of People Living with Mental Illness: From NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness)

  • Words Matter: How Language Choice Can Reduce Stigma (handout)
    The language we use to discuss substance use disorders either formally, as part of prevention messaging, or informally, in conversations with colleagues and stakeholders, can either increase or decrease SUD stigma. In the context of the growing opioid crisis, the language we use becomes particularly important as we find ourselves working in partnership with people who actively misuse substances and confront directly the myriad societal stigmas associated with having an SUD.

  • Attitudinal Barriers (handout)
    The biggest challenge for those who have disabilities is typically not the disability itself, but rather the attitudinal barriers imposed by others. “Attitudinal barriers” are ways of thinking or feeling resulting in behavior that limit the potential of people with disabilities to be independent individuals.

Resources for Schools:
Educators, Administrators and Staff

  • Free Youth Mental Health First Aid Training
    Youth Mental Health First Aid is designed to teach parents, family members, caregivers, teachers, school staff, peers, neighbors, health and human services workers and other caring citizens how to help an adolescent (age 12-18) who is experiencing a mental health or addictions challenge or crisis. Youth Mental Health First Aid is primarily designed for adults who regularly interact with young people. KCMHSAS offers the one-day course for free to individuals and groups. Check our website page for more information.

  • Ending the Silence
    A free 50-minute mental health presentation for middle and high school aged youth, presented by a trained group including a young adult living with a mental health challenge and an adult living in recovery with mental illness or a family member of an individual living with mental illness. Ending the Silence helps youth learn early warning signs of mental illness and offers resources and tools to help themselves, friends or family members who may be in need of support. Contact with an individual living with mental illness dispels myths, instills a message of hope and recovery and encourages students to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness. NAMI Kalamazoo’s program was featured in a WWMT news segment in February 2018.

  • be nice. Education Programs for Elementary, Middle and High Schools
    be nice. is a mental health program from the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan that directly educates students, staff and parents with the tools to recognize a mental health illness. The Action Plan helps others notice, invite, challenge and empower themselves and their peers.

  • Bring Change to Mind: High School Program
    Tools for creating student-led clubs dedicated to mental health conversations. Bring Change to Mind’s High School Program gives teens a platform to share their voices and raise awareness around mental health. Its goal is to empower students to educate one another, and their communities, and to create a culture of peer support within their schools.

  • Mental Health Lesson Plans for Junior and Senior High Students
    Developed by the Alberta Teachers Association and the Canadian Mental Health Association, these lesson plans were created to bring the discussion of mental health and mental illness into the classroom. “As educators, we have the ability to work towards the elimination of stigma and discrimination by teaching the new generation that people with a mental illness are not to be feared, judged, avoided or discriminated against.” 

  • #MyYoungerSelf Educators Toolkit
    These tools for educators to encourage classroom dialogue around child and adolescent mental health and learning disorders are appropriate for students in middle school and above. About #MyYoungerSelf: As part of their mission to decrease stigma and fear surrounding mental health and learning disorders, the Child Mind Institute asked more than 30 prominent people — from actors to athletes to business leaders — to make videos sharing their personal experiences about growing up with these challenges. Participants in the campaign talked candidly about their struggles and offered support and empathy to young people coping with mental health and learning disorders today. Personal stories from Emma Stone, Michael Phelps, Jesse Eisenberg and many more offer positive messages about the importance of getting help.

for Medical Professionals and Service Providers

  • The Power of Perceptions and Understanding: Changing How We Deliver Treatment and Recovery Services
    This four-part webcast series from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) educates healthcare professionals about the importance of using approaches that are free of discriminatory attitudes and behaviors in treating individuals with substance use disorders (SUDs) and related conditions, as well as patients living their lives in recovery.

  • After an Attempt: A Guide for Medical Providers in the Emergency Department Taking Care of Suicide Attempt Survivors (PDF) Developed by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (nami.org) in partnership with the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (sprc.org) under a grant from SAMHSA.
    “One of the most important things you can do for a patient or family member after having been in the ED is to offer hope. Patients and families will look to you to determine the prognosis and for some assurance that this will not happen again. While you cannot guarantee there will not be a recurrence, you can assure them that recovery is likely if the individual and, if appropriate, a family member work closely with a therapist to ensure that the safety and treatment plans are meaningful and effective.”

  • Treatment 101: Finding Effective Care
    An overview from SAMHSA of the different types of evidence-based treatments and resources available today for persons recovering from mental and substance use disorders. The panelists discuss the importance of integrated and personalized treatment, including programs targeting families, faith-based program solutions, trauma-informed care, medication-assisted treatment (MAT), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), peer-led support and others. Experts highlight the need for evidence-based research that measures the improvements and positive outcomes achieved when implementing best practices. Panelists also address the barriers to quality care, treatment of co-occurring disorders and the role behavioral health counselors can play in primary care settings. Finally, the show highlights recovery as an ongoing process, one that is best served by perseverance, open-mindedness and resiliency.

  • How childhood trauma affects health across a lifetime (TED Talk)
    An impassioned plea from Nadine Burke Harris for pediatric medicine to confront the prevention and treatment of trauma, head-on. (TEDMED 2014) “Children are especially sensitive to … repeated stress activation, because their brains and bodies are just developing. High doses of adversity not only affect brain structure and function, they affect the developing immune system, developing hormonal systems, and even the way our DNA is read and transcribed.”