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Saturday: Menlo Park conference to explore mental health stigma

Mental health advocates Elyn Saks, Jeff Bell to speak at 'Our Lives, Our Voices: Overcoming Stigma' event in Menlo Park

Two well-known mental health advocates and individuals with mental illness will speak at a free conference in Menlo Park on Saturday, Jan. 24, with the goal of reducing mental health stigma.

The "Our Lives, Our Voices" conference will feature speakers Elyn Saks, mental health expert and University of Southern California law professor who has written and spoken publicly about her own experience living with schizophrenia, and Jeff Bell, a KCBS news anchor and author of "Rewind Replay Repeat: A Memoir of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder."

Saks also founded and serves as executive director of USC's Saks Institute for Mental Health Law, Policy & Ethics, a think tank founded to foster research and policy reform in the area of mental health by studying issues at the intersection of law, mental health and ethics.

There will also be panel discussions by individuals with a mental health condition and their family members.

"Fear of stigma is one of the chief obstacles preventing people from seeking treatment," an event description reads, citing the statistic that three out of four Californians with mental illness are not receiving the services they need. "Stigma is the result of prejudicial attitudes and widely held negative beliefs associated with mental illness. These false beliefs and attitudes cause social, cultural and economic discrimination. This event will demonstrate how personal strength and determination have enabled many mental health consumers and family members to overcome stigma."

The free event is sponsored by the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA), the Each Mind Matters mental-health movement, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley and the Santa Clara Valley Mental Health Department.

It will run from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Menlo Park Presbyterian Church annex building, (behind the Ace Hardware Store on Santa Cruz Avenue) at 700B Santa Cruz Ave. The event includes a light breakfast and lunch.

Registration is limited to 200 people. To register, go to eventbrite.com.

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