“Yotes Matter”: Using Art to Reduce Mental Health Stigma at California State University, San Bernardino

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Mental health stigma (MHS) is a social justice and human rights issue as it contributes to stereotypes, prejudice, discrimination, and marginalization of individuals with mental illness. With nearly one in five American adults living with a mental illness and 75% of those illnesses beginning by age 24, college students are a critical population to promote mental health and reduce MHS. Furthermore, mental well-being impacts college students’ relationships, substance use, transitions into adulthood, academic performance and progression, engagement in classrooms and campus activities, drop-out rates, and graduation rates. Additionally, counseling centers are increasingly overburdened and under-resourced to adequately meet their students’ mental health needs. This, combined with the impact of MHS preventing students from reaching out for help, emphasizes the importance of educational institutions, social workers, and people of faith enhancing stigma reduction efforts across university settings to address this social problem. Therefore, this comprehensive project developed an innovative art-based pilot program, “Yotes Matter,” for the California State University, San Bernardino (CSUSB) to combat MHS as a social problem in higher education and contribute to several objectives in the Social Work Grand Challenges. This comprehensive project examined MHS through social learning and sociological imagination theories. It also utilized a faith-informed community-based participatory research framework to engage CSUSB community members in the program development process. Community members provided their insights about MHS on campus, lived experiences with mental health, perspectives on the campus climate surrounding mental health, and recommendations on developing the “Yotes Matter” program. “Yotes Matter” is a two-part education-based and contact-based MHS stigma reduction program for CSUSB. It will be piloted in May 2023. It incorporates various art forms to display campus community members’ lived experiences with mental health. A survey with 4-point Likert Scale questions and open-ended questions was developed to assess program effectiveness and impact. Pre- and post-surveys will be distributed before the “Yotes Matter” program begins and after each component concludes. A focus group with CSUSB campus partners will also be facilitated to debrief on the pilot program. It is hypothesized that “Yotes Matter” will result in immediate and short-term effects in reducing MHS and, if implemented annually, will result in long-term reductions in MHS at CSUSB. If the program evaluation results support the hypotheses, “Yotes Matter” can be adapted and scaled to colleges and universities across California. Social workers, educators, researchers, mental health advocates, and program developers are urged to continue examining MHS as a social problem in these institutions, specifically focusing on their subpopulations. Exploring which factors contribute to differing perspectives and experiences of MHS among campus constituents with and without lived experience is also recommended. Finally, it is necessary to evaluate which interventions are most effective with campus subpopulations. These findings can shape future MHS reduction programs to meet each campus’s unique needs and maximize their effectiveness.
A capstone project submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Doctor of Social Work
Social Work, Mental Health