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San Francisco, California is filled with cultural, artistic, and historical attractions, including the Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, and the infamous Alcatraz. With a population of over 800,000 people, the city offers a range of services that aid in meeting the financial, living, and healthcare needs of its citizens. Mental healthcare is a top priority in the city, and with the institution of the Mental Health Services Act, Proposition 63, which was enacted in 2005, funding has been designated to increase prevention, treatment, and education for those living with mental illness1.

Mental Health Statistics
According to the California Department of Mental Health, an estimated 7.2% of youth under the age of 18 in San Francisco County had a serious emotional disturbance in the year 2000, and5.3% of all adults had a serious mental illness2. Further, over 5,000county residents were admitted to a hospital or psychiatric facility for a 72-hour hold from 2008 to 20093, underscoring the need for adequate mental health services in the city.

One of the most prevalent mental health issues that affects citizens of San Francisco is substance abuse. Recent estimates from 2005 through 2010 put drug use among those over the age of 12 at nearly 22%, which is significantly higher than the state prevalence of just over 16%. Of all adults in San Francisco, 5.7% had experienced a major depressive episode in the previous year4, again underscoring the importance of intervention and treatment throughout the city.

Mental Health Programs
A leader in change, San Francisco prides itself on embracing differences and working hard to create an environment of tolerance, acceptance, and above all else, positive well-being. With that goal in mind, several programs have emerged to meet the varying needs of the citizens, from workplace issues to obsessions and compulsions. These programs include the Suicide Attempters Group;Workplace Wellness;the Center for Dignity, Recovery and Stigma Elimination;the Institute on Compulsive Hoarding and Cluttering (ICHC);and SOLVE (Sharing Our Lives, Voices and Experiences)5.

Striving to Eliminate Mental Illness Stigma
SOLVE6 was designed to eradicate mental illness stigma. SOLVE works with citizens who live with mental health challenges and trains them to become peer educators, encouraging them to share their experiences so that social barriers to treatment can be reduced. Members of the SOLVE Speakers Bureau openly discuss their mental health experiences and the struggles they have faced in the past. They share the hope and the victories they have achieved with those still battling mental illness stigma. The mission of SOLVE is to reduce the shame associated with mental illness and the isolation that results from that shame. By raising community awareness and reducing discrimination, every citizen of San Francisco can find an easier path to mental health treatment.

1 Mental Health Association of San Francisco. (2013). Mental Health Services Act. Retrieved from http://www.mentalhealthsf.org/about-us/mhsa/#sthash.YG3QB58Z.dpuf

2 2California Health and Human Services Agency, Department of Mental Health. (2004). Original prevalence data based on the 2000 census, Estimates of prevalence of persons with serious emotional disturbance (SED) and serious mental illness (SMI), San Francisco county. Retrieved from http://www.dmh.ca.gov/statistics_and_data_analysis/docs/Prevalence_Rates/San%20Francisco/Table1.pdf

3 California Health and Human Services Agency, Department of Mental Health. (2011). Adult 72-hour evaluations and treatments by county fiscal year 2008-2009. Retrieved from http://www.dmh.ca.gov/statistics_and_data_analysis/docs/InvoluntaryDetention_FY08-09/Rep0809_final_rev_21oct11.pdf

4 SAMHSA, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2012). National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2005 and 2006 to 2010. Substance Use and Mental Disorders in the Metro Brief San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont MSA. Retrieved from http://www.samhsa.gov/data/NSDUHMetroBriefReports/NSDUH-Metro-San-Francisco.pdf

5 Mental Health Association of San Francisco. (2013). Programs. Retrieved from http://www.mentalhealthsf.org/programs/#sthash.v8WeHMaL.dpuf

6 Mental Health Association of San Francisco. (2013). Mental Health Association, San Francisco. Retrieved from http://www.mentalhealthsf.org/