First 5 Orange County, in partnership with the Orange County Health Care Agency and Be Well OC, announced the launch of the Stigma Free OC campaign centered around the mental health of young children and families.
The Stigma Free OC campaign was originally launched by the Orange County Health Care Agency as a county-wide movement which aims to clear the stigma associated with mental illness and addiction and to encourage those suffering to seek or accept help.
The campaign was reimagined to highlight the predicament of young children and their families who are facing many of these same issues.
Young children in particular can be affected by mental health needs, behavioral issues, developmental gaps or simply from having their mental well-being tied to their parent or caregiver. These conditions and stigmas can affect children’s mental, physical and emotional health for the rest of their lives.
According to the 2021-22 Conditions of Children in Orange County Report, the rate of mental health-related hospitalization of youth had already increased to 28 per 10,000 children prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said in December 2021 that since the pandemic began, rates of psychological distress among young people have increased, with 25 percent of youth experiencing depressive symptoms and 20 percent experiencing anxiety symptoms.
“Our intent for this campaign is to build public awareness about the importance of early childhood mental health. Children’s mental health and well-being are impacted by many things in their environment that are out of their control. Not having a strong and resilient foundation can affect them now and in the future,” said First 5 Orange County President/CEO Kim Goll. “We’re proud to have worked on this campaign to encourage families to seek mental health help for them and their children, and also to inspire empathy from others that our family, friends and neighbors are in need.”
The new Stigma Free OC images feature young children, mothers, pregnant mothers, and fathers with messaging that asks others to see the person, not the condition, such as “I am not a label,” “I am more than my behavior” and “I am not my diagnosis.” Images and messaging were also tailored to Spanish-speaking and Vietnamese-speaking audiences.
In addition to the images, First 5 Orange County and its partners collaborated on a document that highlights action plans for providers and caregivers of young children to help them build empathy and learn how to process their feelings.
The full Stigma Free OC campaign, images, toolkit, posters and more can be found at StigmaFreeOC.com.