By Bart Magee, Ph.D.
Over the last few years, I’ve heard different versions of this plea from the many people I’ve spoken with about our mission at Access Institute. It goes something like: “I really support what you are doing at Access Institute. Mental health affects all of us. The needs are so great and just keep growing. I donate to you, but I’d like to do more. What else can I do to help? How can I volunteer?” I was hearing this a lot before the pandemic, but today I hear it with increased urgency. Everyone is aware that depression, anxiety, problems with substance use, homelessness, and social discord are all on the rise. At the same time, the pandemic has caused people to feel more isolated from one another, making it more difficult to feel connected and capable of social change. In the mental health field, we are facing a huge provider shortage as the needs in our community grow vastly greater than what mental health providers can handle. All of this leaves people feeling helpless and hopeless, as if the problems we face can’t be solved. They can. Solutions emerge through collective action.
“Citizenship”, defined as a set of positive behaviors linked to one’s membership in a group or society, seems adrift. Who are we as citizens of San Francisco or the Bay Area? Are we members of a community that cares for one another? Are we individuals who seek connections in ways that foster our collective well-being? Are we dedicated to finding new ways to effect positive social change?
By Regina Franco, Esq.
Dear Friends of Access Institute,
For those who grew up in immigrant families, we know mental health is grossly stigmatized. That stigma’s power caused years of personal invalidation which was sad and frustrating because no one, including myself, knew my mental health was suffering. I could not break through the cultural barrier of shame associated with depression, anxiety, or other psychological problems. No one could understand the concept of not feeling well despite appearing physically fine: That it was ok not to be ok. Desperate for help, I broke through the barrier and sought treatment. After experiencing life with more ease, I knew mental health advocacy was my calling. That is why I joined the Access Institute Board.