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Mental health advocates celebrate success of anti-stigma campaign

Nick Lippa/WBFO News

Advocates for people with mental health challenges say a local campaign has made great strides in helping to end the stigma associated with those struggles. The Erie County Anti-Stigma Coalition launched its Join The Conversation campaign two years ago. Since then, its leaders say more than 1,600 people have signed the coalition's pledge to end stigma, often through simple actions.

One of those actions, said coalition chairman Max Donatelli, is being more aware of the words we use in everyday conversation.

"Things like 'crazy,' somebody is 'out of their mind, they're insane.' The more that's being used, the more that stigmatizes people," Donatelli said.

Donatelli says people who need help are often hesitant to speak up because of that stigma.

"People don't realize that there's so many people out there that are very successful and they're able to do very well. But in order to get the help, you have to be able to say you've got a problem. That's really what we're trying to help to change," Donatelli said.

Donatelli says one of the challenges experts face is adapting that message to people from different backgrounds.

"The stigma is different in different cultures and we're trying to be more cognizant of that by being able to get people who are working with those people, so they can help to be able to reach those   various cultures," Donatelli added.

Tuesday's morning's anniversary celebration, which was held in the WNED studios, also featured a panel discussion with local experts about overcoming mental health challenges.

The Anti-Stigma Coalition is funded, in part, by the Patrick P. Lee Foundation, which is also a funder of WBFO.

WBFO's Nick Lippa contributed to this report.

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