color-stigma-free-logo-350Stigma Free Carolina, a UNC-Chapel Hill community campaign now in its second year, and The Graduate School will host “Redefining Mental Health – An Expert Panel Event” on Oct. 7 from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

The “Redefining Mental Health” panel will discuss reducing public and personal stigma toward mental health concerns and treatment. The event, free to the public, will be held in the University Room of Hyde Hall, UNC-Chapel Hill campus.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”

Stigma Free Carolina defines mental health stigma as a process occurring when one holds negative or stereotypical views toward those who experience mental health concerns or utilize mental health services.

Last year’s Stigma Free Carolina campaign included community education efforts, student mental health training, an interactive theater workshop, an expert panel discussion, a photography campaign, and other community and social campaign components.

During outreach efforts in 2014, Stigma Free Carolina conducted research to assess the influence of the campaign. Findings indicated that 40.5 percent of UNC-Chapel Hill students surveyed agree that most people would think less of someone who has received mental treatment. Thirteen percent of students surveyed agree that they see receiving mental health treatment as a sign of personal failure. The study also found that students who were aware of the Stigma Free Carolina campaign reported lower levels of personal stigma and more knowledge about mental health resources compared to those who were not aware.

“The results of our survey are promising, but they also signal to us that there is still work to do. We are hopeful that as we continue to work with and engage UNC community leaders and students, we can move even closer to a stigma-free Carolina,” said Todd Jensen, co-leader and doctoral student in social work.

Three UNC-Chapel Hill doctoral students and members of the Royster Society of Fellows founded Stigma Free Carolina. The leadership team for Stigma Free Carolina now consists of several UNC-Chapel Hill students, most of whom represent various professional and graduate programs.

“The campaign is committed to reducing stigma toward mental health concerns and promoting the use of mental health services among Carolina community members by correctly defining mental health as essential to overall well-being and success, and dispelling false beliefs about mental health and mental health services,” said Nelson Pace, co-leader and doctoral student in epidemiology.

Panel members for the Oct. 7 discussion, “Redefining Mental Health,” will include:

Mitch Prinstein, the John Van Seters distinguished professor of psychology and neuroscience, UNC-Chapel Hill

Karen Dunn, executive director of Club Nova Inc., Carrboro

Dawn Dreyer, creator of Bipolar Girl Video Series, and founder and director of Cracked Window Studios

Maureen Windle, associate director and clinical director of Counseling and Psychological Services, UNC-Chapel Hill

Sue Estroff (panel moderator), professor of social medicine, UNC-Chapel Hill

Stigma Free Carolina will officially kick off this year’s campaign with a themed lunch at Top of Lenoir on Sept. 23. Carolina Dining Services will provide a 25 percent discount from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. that day to all individuals who present a valid UNC One Card at Top of Lenoir and who do not have a student meal plan. Information on mental health resources and free prizes, including UNC Student Stores discount vouchers, will be available at this event.

For more information about “Stigma Free Carolina,” register for upcoming events and participate in the photography campaign, please visit stigmafree.unc.edu

Support for the initiative can be shown on social media networks via use of the hashtag #StigmaFreeCarolina