Submitted to the WPR
“This is the single largest Stamp Out Stigma (S.O.S.) Rally ever in Colusa County,” said Colusa County Behavioral Health interim director William Cornelius in welcoming nearly 200 people to the event Friday night.
In the past 10 years, CCBH has hosted small gatherings of about 30 to 40 people for its annual Stamp Out Stigma Wellness & Recovery Rally.
This year’s attendance can be accredited to a lot of things, but mainly to the appearance by world renowned Native American flutist and storyteller Keith Bear.
The goal of the S.O.S. program is to educate and change public attitudes that may create stigma associated with persons seeking mental health services in Colusa County.
Cornelius noted that it is very important for the community to be aware of the services available in the county.
The S.O. S. Rally is one example of what the Department is striving to educate and serve the community in an effort to prevent stigma that leads to isolation, and discourages people from seeking the treatment they need.►
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In the resolution, it is acknowledged that people who suffer from mental illness must be given the treatment, understanding, and the respect, they deserve.
It also acknowledges that the stigma that is attached to seeking mental health services may be a barrier to parents accessing necessary treatment for their children as an intervention for potential serious mental health issues.
Bear came to Colusa County from North Dakota for one week. He appeared at nine school assemblies in the county, was hosted to lunch at Colusa Rotary and a reception in his honor at Safe Haven Drop-In Center before appearing at the S.O.S. Rally.
Bear was extremely well received by all of the people he came into contact with during his stay.
He was very pleased with the way the students, teachers and other groups from Colusa County welcomed him.
“The highlight for me here was definitely the way the people welcomed me,” he said.
At Arbuckle Elementary School, instructor Donna Green playing a hand drum, leading nearly 600 students in a native song which they sang for Bear at the end of his performance there.
“I was very touched by the song the children sang for me,” he said. “That has never happened before at any of my programs. – It was a very special thing.”
Bear is currently working on a recording of songs by children, and hopes to include the one he learned in Colusa County.
“After nearly a year of planning, bringing Bear to the county proved to well worth the effort,” said CCBH peer support specialist Valerie Stirling. Stirling, Cornelius and Mental Health Services Act coordinator Dereck Parks worked along with the department’s publicist Kathy Craigo to plan the event.
“We had a lot of support from the Colusa County Supervisors as well as a number of other county groups and individuals,” said Stirling.
Colusa Lions Club assisted both financially as well as in ‘man power’ in providing food for the pre-concert barbecue on Friday night.
A number of groups and businesses and individuals stepped up to purchase tickets for the event and donated them to families and individuals who may have otherwise not afforded to attend. Colusa Rotary Club, Colusa Industrial Properties, Premier Mushroom L.P., Ullrey Memorial Chapel, Central Valley Gas Storage, Gary Teragawa and Omega Nu purchased tickets. Others, including Colusa Indian Council, Jeff Poppinga, 44th DAA, Colusa County Schools, Territorial Dispatch, Central Valley Foods, Community Foundation of Colusa County, Colusa Theatre, Louis Cairo’s, Tommy’s Market Street Grill, Round Table Pizza, Colusa County Chamber of Commerce, Summertime Films Inc., Ben Felt, Tri Counties Bank, First Impressions, Craigo Media Consulting, Quentin Indrieri, George & Barbara McElligott, Workforce Education and Training volunteers, and Lorena’s Hair Creations contributed raffle prizes, donated time & energy and other necessities to make the event possible, and provided meals during Bear’s stay here.
Bear also enjoyed his ‘first ever’ taste of carnitas when he attended the Arbuckle Spring Festival and Carnitas Cook-off. “I have never tasted carnitas before, but it is certainly a wonderful treat,” he said.
Another thing happened in Colusa that Bear will remember. On a trip to the Post Office, he accidently lost $241 cash when it fell from his pocket. He said the Post Office staff as well as the staff at Ritchie’s Florist was most helpful in helping him search without any luck. The next day when he returned to the Post Office, a person had found the money and called the Post Office to find out who may have lost it.
Bear was most impressed and thankful for the honesty of the person and the support he received from those people he came into contact with there.
Bear, who also does artist in residency programs, hopes to someday return to Colusa County.
“It is a beautiful place he said,” adding that the North Valley scenery reminds him of the prairies of North Dakota. ■