Monday night, Pleasanton’s Alan Hu Foundation hosted a webinar lecture featuring Dr. Stephen Hinshaw focused on addressing the stigma associated with mental health in adolescents.
Hinshaw is an author, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley and a professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at the University of California, San Francisco. In his lecture, he touched on stigma and how it affects those experiencing mental health disorders.
“By blending science and narrative, I hope to give voice to the family suffering involved when stigma reigns, and to what a future could look like when open attitudes, evidence-based treatments, and humanization can prevail,” said Hinshaw.
Throughout the lecture, Hinshaw related the topic of stigma to his father’s battle with bipolar disorder in the 20th century. He correlated this experience with academic research on the topic of stigma, ending with a look into mental illness in adolescents and how to overcome shame through dialogues on mental health.
Hinshaw argued that, although public knowledge on the issue has increased, the negative image surrounding it has not changed.
“We’ve either made no progress or we’ve gone backwards,” said Hinshaw. “We have not provided the level of care and funding for community treatment that we’ve needed to, so we may be inadvertently increasing stigma rather than decreasing it.”
The lecture was followed by a brief question and answer session in which Hinshaw fielded questions from the audience. Topics ranged from how to get help for a loved one experiencing mental health illnesses to how to lessen the stigma behind mental health disorders.
Hinshaw expressed the belief that the simplest way to reduce stigma is for schools and families to find ways to reduce stress. He further said people can help mitigate the issue by confronting those who ridicule people with mental disorders.
Pleasanton Mayor Karla Brown and Fremont Vice Mayor Yang Shao were honored by the Alan Hu Foundation as notable figures who attended the webinar.
The event is part of a larger mental health lecture series organized by the Alan Hu Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Pleasanton focused on destigmatizing mental health. When Alan Hu passed away due to mental health disorders in 2018, his parents started the foundation in his legacy to help those suffering from mental illnesses.
“The Alan Hu Foundation mental health lecture series aims to make mental health knowledge common knowledge,” said Alan Hu Foundation Co-Founder Chih-Ching Hu, PhD, in an introduction to the lecture. “Alan Hu Foundation’s mission is to promote mental health, raise awareness and remove stigma surrounding psychiatric disorders, and support fundamental research for cures.”
Both the Alan Hu Foundation and Hinshaw are working to create a safe space for adolescents to seek help for mental illnesses. Overcoming stigma and shame is just one of the ways they hope to achieve their goal.
“We need to humanize (mental illness),” said Hinshaw. “The more we talk about it … everyone will be beyond the point of thinking that admitting to a struggle mentally is a sign of weakness — no, it’s just the opposite.”
For more information on the Alan Hu Foundation, visit alanhufoundation.org.