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Mental Health Association Takes On New Name to Reflect Updated Identity

Now known as the Mental Wellness Center, the Santa Barbara nonprofit is furthering its mission to break down stigma

Words encapsulate meaning, holding the power to either heal or further stigma, and nowhere has that been more evident than in the area of mental illness.

The Mental Health Association of Santa Barbara further embraced that healing on Wednesday by announcing a name change for the organization, which now will be called the Mental Wellness Center.

The 65-year-old organization has always advocated for recovery and treatment for those with mental illness. Called the Mental Hygiene Society when it began in the 1940s, the nonprofit’s holistic name change reflects a shifting in attitudes about mental illness.

“Wellness indicates an action,” said Annmarie Cameron, the center’s executive director, adding that mental health recovery is not a single event but a journey.

About 30 supporters gathered in the center’s lobby at 617 Garden St. on Wednesday to watch Cameron and her staff unveil a plaque with the center’s new name, as well as the tagline “Recovery, Education, Family Services.”

“We know that mental wellness and recovery are fostered by empowering individuals and breaking down barriers that stand in their way,” Cameron told the group.

She encouraged those in attendance to spread the word about the services offered at the center.

“You never know that someone you tell may have an enormous need for the services we provide, and those benefits have a ripple effect in the community,” she said.

During an open house tour of the nonprofit’s offices, Cameron said the group has made significant strides to break down stigma.

Thanks to an ongoing $120,000 state grant, the center is operating a program that helps people with mental illness find work in the community. It has placed nine people in jobs in six months, and the program also pairs the employees with Antioch University graduate interns who check in on them weekly.

The Mental Wellness Center has 30 people, the maximum, enrolled in the program, but Cameron said she has hopes the program will expand.

The organization is also holding its first 5k walk/run for Mental Wellness on Sunday, May 6. The opening ceremony will begin at 8:30 a.m. at Lower Manning Park in Montecito.

For more information about the center’s services or to register online for the 5K, click here or call 805.884.8440.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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