Bay Area Regional Self-Help Project

 California Network of Mental Health Clients

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As the statewide advocacy voice by and for consumers, survivors and ex-patients (c/s/x) of the mental health system, the California Network of Mental Health Clients supports a c/s/x-run self-help project in each of the state's five regions, with funding from the California Department of Mental Health.   The California Network has a statewide membership of over 1,500 individuals and affiliates, including over 280 Members in the Bay Area Region.

Each June, Regional Members propose and vote on a new Self-Help Project, to be staffed by the Regional Coordinator with some support from supervisors, volunteers and assistants.  The Bay Area Regional Projects for Fiscal Years 2003-04, ’04-05, and ’05-06 have focused on conducting a series of c/s/x focus groups on stigma and discrimination, analyzing participants' responses, and developing and disseminating the c/s/x anti-discrimination message.  

The report-in-progress, "Normal People Don't Want to Know Us: First-Hand Experiences and Perspectives on Stigma and Discrimination" documents  our 2003-04 qualitative research study involving approximately 250 Bay Area mental health clients, psychiatric survivors, in-patients and ex-patients, who participated in twelve focus groups in a variety of settings, with in-depth analysis of the responses of  from diverse backgrounds.  The report's Findings and Recommendations section, index and bibliography are still in progress.

The Network is uniquely positioned to facilitate c/s/x focus groups in diverse setting, promote c/s/x definitions, messages and strategies to combat and overcome stigma and discrimination, and provide educational training for mental health professionals and service providers, public mental health departments, policy makers, stakeholder groups, advocates, the media and the general public.

The Network's Bay Area Regional Members have chosen this project as a first step towards bringing c/s/x experiences and perspectives on stigma and discrimination to the center of mainstream discourse.  This report on emerging themes from the focus groups will be followed by a position paper in which we will present the clients’ message on stigma and discrimination, redefine the terms to reflect focus group and member input and provide a prescription for systems transformation.

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