Experiencing Hope Header Graphic


In the present era of transformation and progress, it is imperative to eradicate the detrimental stigma attached to mental health and recognize the significance of sharing personal narratives. Many individuals and organizations, particularly within the governmental realm, often adhere to conventional norms and practices. However, this represents a significant missed opportunity, as the quality of our agencies is intrinsically linked to our ability to foster an environment that encourages open dialogue about mental health and embraces the powerful impact of personal stories.

This inspirational shift in perspective prompted the Fresno County Department of Behavioral Health to reconsider the way stories of hope and well-being are disseminated to the public. The department’s Communication team, in collaboration with local community-based organizations, embarked on a transformative journey to pioneer a fresh approach to sharing these narratives. The outcome was a remarkable one-night event that invited the general public to witness a full-length documentary brimming with deeply personal accounts.

Attendees were also given the unique opportunity to engage in meaningful discussions with the individuals featured in the film. This open dialogue not only provided insights into their personal journeys but also offered guidance on how to access support for both themselves and their loved ones. This innovative event underscored the power of storytelling in addressing mental health and fostering a more supportive and informed community.

Research & Planning

A  local marketing agency was contracted in 2019 to assist with research and played a pivotal role in our overall/primary research efforts, focusing on several critical topics, notably the destigmatization of mental health and substance use disorder. The research findings offered invaluable insights, which encompass the following key recommendations:
• Enhanced Community Engagement: The research underscored the need for more in-person community education events to raise awareness about mental health issues. These events were deemed highly effective in fostering greater understanding and reducing stigma.
• Balancing Physical and Digital Outreach: While the importance of utilizing social media for connecting with the public was acknowledged, the research highlighted the paramount importance of maintaining a robust physical outreach component. In fact, it was deemed even more critical, emphasizing the need for a strong in person presence in outreach efforts.
• Diverse Representation: All surveyed groups expressed unanimous agreement on the significance of the services provided. However, it was strongly recommended that outreach initiatives showcase a diverse range of individuals who do not conform to stereotypical representations of those facing mental health and substance use disorders. This diversity would better resonate withthe general public.
• Accessible Messaging: Research findings indicated a preference for messaging that is clear and easily understandable, emphasizing the need to minimize medical jargon in communication efforts. This adjustment would improve overall public engagement and comprehension of mental health-related issues.

In response to the primary research findings, the Department made the strategic decision to organize an event centering around eleven concise, local narratives. This event was designed as a premiere showcasing these stories, with a full-length documentary as the focal point, followed by an interactive Q & A session with the storytellers. This approach was chosen because it allowed for the subsequent dissemination of these stories on social media platforms and through media partners, ensuring a broader reach and impact.

The primary objective of this campaign, encompassing the “Experiencing Hope” event and documentary, was to chip away at the stigma associated with mental health and substance use disorders within our community. This was to be achieved by sharing a wide array of resiliency and connection stories that represented a diverse population that represented much or our Fresno County community. The specific goal for the event was to draw an audience of 200 individuals to the premiere, thereby furthering our mission.

Implementation Overview

Our approach involved mirroring the widely recognized format of TED Talks. However, due to the deeply personal nature of the stories we sought to convey, we made a strategic decision to film these narratives, primarily to save time, and then facilitate direct interactions between the audience and the storytellers through a series of questions and answers and moderated by a media partner from our local ABC news team. This approach aimed
to maximize the impact of our initiative and created a buzz throughout the community.

Extensive research informed our strategy, revealing that the most effective means of connecting with our audience were threefold: reducing stigma and shame associated with mental health and substance use disorders, increasing knowledge about these critical issues, and instilling a sense of hope and inspiration. These objectives perfectly align with the overarching mission of the Fresno County Department of Behavioral Health, which is dedicated to offering support and resources in these very areas.

These insights formed the foundation for what we subsequently named our “Experiencing Hope: Stories of Resiliency in Fresno County” one-night event. The strategies employed for the event were designed to infuse it with a fresh and youthful spirit, casting it as a premiere of a full-length documentary that promised attendees complimentary popcorn, water, sodas, and eyecatching vinyl stickers and large lapel pins conveying the uplifting message of “Experiencing Hope.” To add an extra layer of excitement, participants were enthusiastically encouraged to strike a pose in front of the step-and-repeat backdrop, capturing these memorable moments for their social media profiles.

Our talented staff, doubling as professional photographers, documented the evening’s proceedings, generously sharing these captivating snapshots with our community partners and across our social media platforms. But that’s not all. The department also fostered dynamic collaborations with community-based organizations to extend our reach through the channels of social media, email, and further alliances with like-minded organizations. In an effort to make the documentary a truly engaging and enjoyable experience, we enlisted the expertise of our partner agency, Brainwise Solutions.

The two visionary CEOs either introduced each captivating story or provided a succinct summary, allowing viewers to absorb the occasionally profound content while keeping the viewing experience both informative and entertaining. The department kicked off the event in style with a press event, where prominent individuals featured in the documentary passionately conveyed their hopes for what viewers would take away from their stories. This impactful gathering also featured the County Administrative Officer, who addressed the media, underscoring the significance of events like this in our community. The local media enthusiastically supported our cause, sharing news of the event through their broadcast channels and on social media platforms. Simultaneously, the department meticulously recorded the press event and promoted it across their own vibrant social media channels.

The press event, by all measures, emerged as a resounding success. Not only did it further our mission of combatting the stigma surrounding mental health and substance use disorders, but it also served as a powerful platform that transcended the immediate event attendees, extending our message to a broader and more diverse audience within our community.

So this Experiencing Hope film screening I emceed tonight is so needed in the community. It was like a big community therapy session. It was so cool to go through this event with other people in the community, and honestly, you just know this event touched so many people. I truly feel they got what they wanted and more. It was just so great to see audience members open up and share their stories of mental health struggles and reaching out for help. That’s what we want, we created a safe space for the community to share and be vulnerable. – Amanda Aguilar, Emcee for Event

Budget Breakdown

In a strategic move to optimize our budget resources, the department took the initiative to handle a significant portion of the creative workload. JP Marketing initially presented a budget proposal of $70,000 for the event, encompassing their services, including the production of the documentary. However, the department chose to harness the creative talents of its in-house staff to undertake the documentary production. This strategic decision not only resulted in cost savings for the department but also ensured that the narrative of the film remained steadfastly positive, and centered on themes of resiliency and recovery.

This approach yielded substantial savings, amounting to over $35,000, a noteworthy achievement in budget efficiency. This included undertaking the complete production of the full-length documentary and driving promotional efforts across social media, email and other channels. JP Marketing excelled in crafting various creative collateral materials for the event. This encompassed the creation of captivating posters, engaging social media graphics, a user-friendly web form for event registration, a visually appealing event flyer, and a well-structured program.

Moreover, JP Marketing played a pivotal role in sourcing key materials that enriched the event’s atmosphere, including vinyl stickers, lapel pins, and popcorn bags. Their contributions extended to procuring delectable food and beverages, elevating the overall event experience. Additionally, JP Marketing took the lead in securing the venue contract, thus ensuring the seamless execution of the event. While the department highly appreciated the expertise of the JP Marketing team, there was a sentiment that several of the creative collateral materials could have been efficiently created in-house by the department. Notably, the photos utilized for posters and social graphics were sourced from department staff and were captured during the same filming period.

Looking ahead, the department envisions that many of the creative responsibilities undertaken by JP Marketing could be competently managed by our in-house staff, who possess the requisite skills, equipment, and artistic talent to generate similar content. This transition could potentially lead to substantial cost savings, amounting to thousands of dollars in the long run.

Consultant Costs: $27,280
• JP Marketing Account Man. – $8000
• Event Concepting – $2500
• Poster Creative – $1080
• Social Graphics – $1500
• Event Web Fill Form – $1000
• Event Flyer Creative – $2500
• Event Program Creative – $3400
• MH YouTube Jammy H. Video Creative – $500
• Hope Poster Printing – $634
• Balloon Columns – $275
• Easels for Posters – $320
• Beverages – $235
• Popcorn Bags – $103
• Venue Cost – $4933
• Gift Cards – $300
In-House County Costs: $1341 + 190 Staff Hours
• Lead Staff time for Filming Documentary – 30 Hours
• Lead Staff time for Editing Documentary – 100 Hours
• Staff Interviewers time for Documentary – 30 Hours
• Camera Rental – $1341
• Staff time for Event – 6 staff @ 5 hours each = 30 Hours
Total: $28,6221 + 190 Staff Hours


This project stands as a resounding success within the department. The event witnessed an impressive turnout, with over 359 individuals pre-registering, surpassing our initial goal by a remarkable 56%. This outstanding response exceeded expectations by 159 participants. Furthermore, the documentary achieved significant online visibility, garnering over 1,000 views on the Department’s YouTube channel. Our reach extended to more than 3,000 people through the Department’s Facebook page and reached an additional 600 individuals via Instagram. The story garnered attention from local news stations, including the highly regarded ABC30, our community’s top-rated English news source, and KSEE24.

Additionally, our department’s webpage, stigmafreefresno.com, recorded over 5,000 visits in the past six months. Reflecting on the event’s impact, Amanda Aguilar, the event’s emcee and an ABC30 reporter, aptly expressed, “So this Experiencing Hope film screening I emceed tonight is so needed in the community. It was like a big community therapy session. It was so cool to go through this event with other people in the community, and honestly, you just know this event touched so many people. I truly feel they got what they wanted and more.  It was just so great to see audience members open up and share their stories of mental health struggles and reaching out for help. That’s what we want, we created a safe space for the community to share and be vulnerable.” These sentiments encapsulate the profound and positive influence our initiative had on our community.