Stimulating Dialogue Around Mental Health

How 16 community groups and leaders created an anti-stigma movement


Understanding that the shame associated with mental illness keeps many people from seeking help, a small group of mental health professionals began developing an idea for a public campaign to raise awareness about the issue in 2015. From there, it was not long before many more joined the effort, including the Tower Foundation as a lead funder, to form the Erie County Anti-Stigma Coalition.

Launched in the spring of 2017, the Join the Conversation/Let’s Talk Stigma campaign invited the community to take a pledge to end stigma and encouraged dialogue around mental health. The campaign included a healthy mix of billboard advertising, digital advertising, social media, and events. To date, the campaign has engaged more than 13,000 on social media, driven strong website traffic at, and has been covered extensively in the local news.

“This has really been an organic and collaborative process,” says Max Donatelli, now retired from Baker Victory Services, who was part of the founding group. “By joining forces we have been able to be far more effective. The Tower Foundation has been a real anchor of the program, providing expertise and relevant data, in addition to funding. They did not hesitate to get involved as they understand how important it is to demystify mental health issues.”