Sacramento County Hosts Panel Discussion on Reducing Stigma

Aimed to encourage hope and dispel myths about mental illness

Department of Health and Human Services
Sherri Z. Heller

1/24/2014 10:00 PM

Media Contact:

Laura McCasland    (916) 875-2008


SACRAMENTO, Calif. – In a continued effort to reduce stigma surrounding mental illness, the Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Behavioral Health Services (DHHS/DBHS) hosted a panel discussion earlier today about reducing stigma related to mental illness. The goal of the event was to challenge preconceived ideas about mental illness and encourage community members to get involved in the countywide mental health stigma and discrimination reduction effort, the “Mental Illness: It’s not always what you think project.
The ”Mental Illness: It’s not always what you think” project aims to promote messages of hope and recovery, encourage conversation around mental illness, and underscore that mental illness can affect anyone. In Sacramento County an estimated 355,000 residents live with mental illness, but research shows that only one-third will seek professional help primarily due to the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental illness.
“The goal of this discussion was to bring attention to the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental illness and to encourage members of the community to play an active role in stopping stigma,” said Dorian Kittrell, DBHS Deputy Director.  “Hope and encouragement are important to the people and families living with mental illness, and the more people who are educated about mental illness, the better they can help themselves or help their loved ones get the help and support they need.”
The "Stopping Stigma in Sacramento: A Panel Discussion about Mental Illness" event was held today at the Oak Park Community Center.  Participants included:
  • Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg
  • Sacramento County Supervisor Don Nottoli
  • Dorian Kittrell, Deputy Director, Sacramento County Division of Behavioral Health Services
  • Cheryl Raney, Director of the Prevention & Student Services Dept., Sacramento County Office of Education
  • Albert G. Titman, Sr., Behavioral Health Program Manager, Sacramento Native American Health Center
  • Dr. Hendry Ton, Health Sciences Associate Clinical Professor, UC Davis Health System
  • Katie Williams, Student, Sacramento State
  • Jennifer Buchanan, Stop Stigma Speaker's Bureau
  • Jennifer Whitney, Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission
Senator Steinberg spoke about the importance of ensuring mental health programs stay top of mind in Sacramento County.
"Mental disorders know no boundaries of gender, ethnicity or wealth.  We all know someone struggling with mental illness, and we owe it to our families, friends and co-workers to erase the stigma," said Senator Steinberg.  "Intervention and effective treatment can't happen until we bring mental illness out of the shadows."
The panel participants discussed their perspectives and experiences with stigma, how mental illness affects youth and cultural communities differently, common misconceptions and how we can work to better educate friends, family members and the public about the mental health.
For those interested, there are several other ways to help reduce stigma and get involved with the project: 
  1. Join the Stop Stigma Sacramento Speakers Bureau. The project's Speakers Bureau offers an opportunity for people living with a mental illness, or their friends and family members, to share messages of wellness, hope and recovery that help promote positive attitudes about living with mental illness.
  2. Share your personal story of hope and recovery to help stop stigma and discrimination toward people and families living with mental illness.  Telling your story may encourage others to share their experiences and may end the silence that contributes to isolation and shame.
  3. Learn more about reducing stigma and discrimination at, follow the project on Twitter and 'like' the project on Facebook.
  4. Invite a speaker from the Stop Stigma Sacramento Speakers Bureau to share their story at your next event.

For more information on Sacramento County's stigma and discrimination reduction project, please visit  Residents can also call 2-1-1 Sacramento (2-1-1 or TTY 916-446-1434), a free information and referral service for the community.  Calls are always confidential and interpreters are available. ​