Contra Costa Behavioral Health "Busts Stigma" with Brenden Theatre Event!

Contra Costa Behavioral Health, with primary effort from their Office of Consumer Empowerment and the Alchohol and Drug Services Department, hosted their first Recovery Month event at Brenden Theatres on 9/27/19. The event, with major support from Brenden Theatres who offered use of a theatre for free, was a success as the public was treated to a five-member panel discussing their own stories of recovery and how they overcame stigma and are fighting against stigma today. Contra Costa hopes to ciontinue hosting this event annually because the more stigma is lessened around mental health and substance use, the less people might feel shame related to their diagnosis and the easier it will be for people to seek treatment.

Hume's Director of Clinical Programs, Chris Celio, moderated the panel discussion. He started the event with this poem on stigma:


  • Is sideways glances and rolling eyes
  • Is sidewalks emptying as you walk toward and friendships emptying as you break down
  • Is the limiting force that tells you you’ll never be good enough
  • Is the insidious belief that allows others to tell you you’ll never be good enough
  • Is the world’s message that tells you you’ll never measure up to be worthy of standing up
  • Is the solid wall that tells “them” that they never have to make you an “us”
  • Is the solid belief that tells you that you must completely change to be worthy of “them”
  • Is your belief that things will never get better, so why try or why live
  • Is everyone else’s belief that things will never get better, so why care or reach out
  • Is careless statements like, “Depressed? No, she’s just lazy,” 
  • and “Don’t invite him, he shakes too much in public,” 
  • and “We can’t have those kinds of people around the kids.”
  • Is a short time locked in jail becoming a lifetime of being locked out of work
  • Is a short time exposed to trauma becoming a lifetime of being blamed as the victim
  • Is when your name becomes hushed and whispered
  • Is when a symptom becomes your name
  • Is when a disorder is all there is
  • Is when your future is written off and you’re told to be “happy” that things are as good as they can get
  • Is when everyone else is the expert on you
  • And when you’re perceived strengths are drowned below a sea of failures
  • And when you’re failures are lit up by spotlights, casting hot light on every blemish
  • Stigma is the world writing the rest of your story, but only using a thick red sharpie and a 3x5 note card to do it
  • Stigma is gaslighting those who fight for language to evolve beyond limits and labels
  • Stigma is making sure a person’s platform for growth is as shaky and small as possible
  • Stigma is kicking you when you’re down or up, and holding you down when you fall, and convincing your loved ones to tell you to stop trying to get up

We come together today to bust down these walls, to remind each other that we are enough, just as we are. To affirm, as a community, that we can walk tall, that lived experience is golden, and that shame in all its forms can be replaced by the joy of what is and what can be."