Stigma-Free Campaign Aims to Normalize Mental Health

With an estimated 1 in 4 U.S. adults and over 1 in 5 youths facing some form of mental disorder, there is a growing need to address this mental health crisis. This is of particular concern as 28% of New Brunswick residents that participated in the 2016 New Brunswick Community Survey stated that at least someone in their household has depression, anxiety, or other mental health condition. While genetics and family history are primary sources of mental health disorders, disparities in areas such as health, housing, and food security can exacerbate them. As New Brunswick Tomorrow (NBT) works to address the health and social disparities residents face in the city, our focus on mental health issues has become a focal priority due to the pandemic.

Interwoven within both our health and youth focus areas, Director of Community Health, Manuel Castañeda, and Director of Youth Services, Jian Bland, have combined efforts to develop and implement a Stigma-Free campaign aimed at addressing mental health among the youth in New Brunswick. Using the existing Live Well Vivir Bien New Brunswickpublic health communications campaign as a springboard to extend into the youth space, the Stigma-Free campaign provides messaging that educates youth on the importance of mental health, provides consistent reassurance that emphasizes building resiliency, and promotes available mental health resources as a means to normalize discussions surrounding mental health for youth.

The initiative gained traction in September of 2020 when Johnson & Johnson not only provided funding for the campaign but also provided their expertise via the Talent for Healthy Communities workshop. This 15-week long program provided an expert team at Johnson & Johnson to help develop a work plan to roll out the Stigma-Free campaign sharing expertise in communications, project management, and social media analytics.

With the work plan in place, NBT leveraged the School-Based Youth Services Program in partnership with NJ Department of Children and Families, Youth Advocate Program, and New Brunswick Board of Education, to utilize the expertise of the Mental Health Clinicians on staff to facilitate the program, and partnered with the Civic League of Greater New Brunswick to recruit students to be ambassadors of the program. As student health ambassadors, the students will be reaching out to their peers via social media messaging to share information, stories, coping skills, and more surrounding mental health. As facilitators, our goal is to empower the students to lead the communication to reduce stigma surrounding discussions of mental health with their peers, families, and overall community.

The initial group of student ambassadors has been working diligently for the last few months to craft their strategy to launch this initiative. While NBT’s initial partnerships to launch this campaign began prior to the pandemic, the need to address the mental health needs of our young people is all the more urgent.

February 25, 2021

Contributors to this post

Below are some additional team members who contributed to this blog post:

Jian Bland is Director of Community Youth Services for New Brunswick Tomorrow. You can learn more about her here. Stay updated on Jian's work for New Brunswick via Twitter.