PR News 2016 Diversity in PR Awards: Organization

Winner: Institute for Multicultural Counseling and Education Services

The Institute for Multicultural Counseling and Education Services (IMCES) is a professional nonprofit organization established in 1989 by Dr. Tara Pir with the strong commitment to promote social justice and human rights in action on a day-to-day basis.

From day one, IMCES has focused on disparities in access to health, mental health, social and legal services among culturally diverse communities. IMCES believes that health and mental health is the human right of everyone and creates an even ground for everyone to walk on by providing clinical services of the highest standard to the most needy, underserved, vulnerable, diverse populations.

Stigma as it relates to mental illness has been a major barrier to both identifying and accessing mental health services. Self-stigma and community-stigma impact the health and wellbeing of society. Even in America, one in four is living with mental illness. Many will not seek help due to fear of stigma, isolation, and discrimination.

To better understand the cultural sources and influences of stigma as it relates to mental illness, Dr. Pir designed a survey with the goal of identifying cultural sources that influence the development of stigma as a problem and to develop effective interventions toward resolution.

The results indicated that the following factors contributed to the maintenance of stigma: media, family culture, school, and limited access to educational materials in English. On that basis, an effective outreach and engagement plan was designed, including public education seminars through schools and in community centers specifically for low-income children and families. The outcome was that the number enrolled in IMCES’ program significantly increased.