featured graphic for Orange County Health Care Agency during COVID-19

OC Health Care Agency launches mental health awareness and suicide prevention campaigns

Recognizing the stresses that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is having on OC residents, the OC Health Care Agency (HCA) is launching three new mental health awareness campaigns in the coming weeks – the first is aimed at reducing the stigma in support of wellness and recovery and the other two are focused on suicide prevention.

Introduced a year ago, StigmaFreeOC is launching a new advertising and community outreach campaign on Nov. 5. This campaign addresses the stigma surrounding mental illness and alcohol and drug misuse so everyone is supported in getting the help that they need. Engaging 15-second video ads show a person’s face veiled by animated swirls of textured colors, then transitioning to reveal the human face with the poignant message — “See the person not the condition.”

Reducing the stigma associated with these conditions is even more important as many adults are reporting specific negative impacts on their mental health and wellbeing, such as “… increases in alcohol consumption or substance use (12%), and worsening chronic conditions (12%), due to worry and stress over the coronavirus,” according to Kaiser Family Foundation.

Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn will be used as the primary platforms for promoting the Stigma Free OC campaign along with digital and print ads in Orange County. The campaign website, StigmaFreeOC.com, provides behavioral health resources as well as the opportunity to sign a pledge to support a stigma-free community in Orange County. Individuals and organizations that take the StigmaFreeOC pledge are listed on the website.

“It’s important that people know they can find the help they are looking for with mental illness, substance use disorders and suicide prevention,” said Chairwoman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors Michelle Steel, Second District. “We are all currently facing more stress and anxiety than ever before. It’s important that we all recognize when people are really struggling and to step in with help and resources so we can get through this and support one another.”

In addition, the first suicide prevention campaign, “Help is Here” focusing on adult males will roll out in early November and run through the end of the year targeting the holiday season, which has historically shown greater incidents of suicide. The campaign includes outdoor billboards, television and radio spots, transit shelter ads, digital and social media placements. Multiple ad executions were created to reflect real men representing this high-risk group.

“The OC Health Care Agency is promoting initiatives to encourage better mental health among Orange County residents during this pandemic,” said Vice Chairman Andrew Do, First District Supervisor. “These campaigns aim to reduce the stigma of mental health and encourage people to reach out to offer support and take action if someone they know needs help. Working through Be Well OC, a public-private partnership funded primarily by the Board of Supervisors, the Behavioral Health Services Division of HCA, led by Dr. Jeffrey Nagel, has worked to increase public awareness of the pending mental health crisis brought on by the COVID-19 crisis. One of the barriers preventing people from seeking help is due to fear of being judged. In order to support each other, we need to understand that mental health can affect anyone. Recognizing the signs can help us show support to someone who is struggling.”

Supervisor Don Wagner, 3rd District added, “While any death by suicide is concerning, we have noted that 50 to 60-year old men are at especially high risk of dying by suicide. Research indicates that this is largely a result of our cultural expectation and masculine identity and behavior that leans toward not asking for help.”

Suicide is also a major concern when it comes to young people. According to the American Association of Suicidology, suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15- to 24-year-olds. The “Be A Friend For Life” campaign directs youth to reach out to friends who exhibit warning signs of suicide and seek professional support by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255) or visiting www.beafriendforlife.com for a variety of support resources.

The campaign targets youth ages 15- to 22-years old, with a specific focus on the LGBTQ+, foster youth and high-achiever demographics who are at higher-risk for suicide. The campaign will appear in transit shelters, and digital and social media. “Among our youth, the greatest increase in suicide and suicide attempts has occurred in this age group,” said Supervisor Doug Chaffee, 4th District. “Outreach to youth, and getting them to think about this issue and helping them understand what they can do to help someone in need, can save lives.”

Supervisor Lisa A. Bartlett, Fifth District, added, “COVID-19 has brought to the forefront many of the behavioral health issues people were already facing before the pandemic. We hope that by raising awareness and providing critical resources, we can help turn someone’s life around, and give them an opportunity for a brighter future.”

“These suicide prevention campaigns are very close to my heart. I have been open about the fact that I am a suicide survivor because I want to break the stigma around suicide and encourage people to reach out and seek timely help. Our Orange County youth – just like the adults – are facing unprecedented challenges exacerbated by COVID-19. I know these campaigns will positively impact lives,” said Dr. Clayton Chau, County Health Officer and Director of the OC Health Care Agency.

“Suicide is a significant public health challenge that has only been exacerbated by COVID-19,” said Dr. Jeffrey Nagel, the HCA’s Deputy Agency Director of Behavioral Health Services. “All Orange County residents need to be aware and responsive to the warning signs of suicide in their loved one and even in themselves, and then know where to seek help. There is hope. The evidence for effective suicide prevention practices is growing every day. These three campaigns are part of a comprehensive strategy looking to decrease the numbers of lives lost to suicide in Orange County.”

“Access to behavioral health services is especially important during this time of isolation, loss, and multiple life disruptions. Yet stigma remains a powerful barrier that can prevent people from getting the help they need in a timely manner, which can result in increased stress, worry or and even despair,” said Marshall Moncrief, CEO, Mind OC.

For more on these campaigns, go to:

For more information about mental health and suicide prevention resources, visit OC Health Care Agency’s Behavioral Health Services.

This article was released by the OC Health Care Agency.

1 Comment

  1. —-Reducing the stigma associated with these conditions

    The metaphor, “reducing” the “stigma: is making broad appearance in the media, no one seems to examine it. It means:

    1. Accommodate those taught and teaching that prejudice, and
    2. Hold onto some of it.

    No thank you to both.

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