Eliminating Stigma One Story at a Time

Since its inception, Rogers InHealth has been at the forefront in the quest to decrease the stigma of mental illness. This past year, this pursuit took a major step forward through the introduction of Honest, Open, Proud: To Eliminate the Stigma of Mental Illness – High School (HOP-HS).

When facing mental health challenges, the stories we tell ourselves are very powerful. If the focus is negative, the impact can be damaging. In contrast, shaping a personal story based on resilience in the face of challenge can be empowering…and even more so when the story is shared with others.

“Self-disclosure, however, comes with both costs and benefits,” explains Sue McKenzie, co-director of Rogers InHealth. “It is a process that must be done strategically in the various settings of one’s life to avoid doing more harm than good.”

The concepts of resilient stories and strategic self-disclosure form the basis of Honest, Open, Proud (HOP), a program originally designed for adults. The HOP curriculum was adapted for use by high school students in 2015. The high school version of HOP owes its start to the Wisconsin Initiative for Stigma Elimination (WISE), a coalition of more than 25 advocacy and provider groups facilitated by Rogers InHealth.

Randomized control trials of HOP-HS took place throughout the 2015-16 school year, and interest in the program is exceeding expectations. Over the course of this school year, Rogers InHealth will train approximately 250 HOP-HS facilitators throughout the state of Wisconsin, and an online version is being piloted. This will help deliver the program to high school age students where gathering in a face-to-face group setting isn’t a feasible option.

“While interest in HOP-HS is increasing exponentially throughout Wisconsin, the program is not limited by geographic scale. One of the most hopeful aspects of HOP-HS is the ease in which it could be adapted in locations throughout the United States.” –Rogers InHealth Co-Director Suzette Urbashich

“How HOP-HS Works”

Led by a trained facilitator, HOP-HS takes place over five sessions. Youth develop skills to reverse hurtful self-talk and assess the pros and cons of disclosing in situations and settings such as at school, within friendships and even within extended family. If they decide that disclosure is safe and will serve a positive purpose, they are given tools to do so and an opportunity to practice sharing their stories from the perspective of strength.

Initiatives of Rogers InHealth, such as HOP-HS clinical trials and programming, are being funded in part by private donations made through the Foundation. Help grow this program so that more teens can learn valuable skills to feel empowered, not shamed, by their story of resilience! Designate your gift to “Stigma Reduction” and write “HOP” in the comments box.