When Public Service Makes a World of Difference (to YOU)

Written by: Jennifer Rignani, Co-Chair, NAMI Public Service Project, PRSA Pittsburgh

There are a lot of reasons people volunteer. Altruism, personal development, professional connections and community service among them.

But sometimes we give our time and talent because the opportunity is 100% aligned with everything we believe in, and to not step up would be a great loss. In a constellation of circumstances, such a chance came my way.

After a 15-year sabbatical from professional involvement with PRSA, I was thrilled to reignite my relationship by joining the board of the Pittsburgh chapter. My first task was to co-chair the Public Service Project (with Deanna Tomaselli) bringing structure and energy to this key initiative focused on providing an area nonprofit pro bono services. As a former “client-side” nonprofit marketing and PR practitioner, this was near and dear to my heart. After many years of being the respondent to RFPs, I was happy to help design one, distribute it and review the many worthy submissions we received with our committee.

CEOs Against Stigma

In the end, we selected the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Keystone Pennsylvania “CEOs Against Stigma” campaign. This further deepened my commitment, as the issues NAMI addresses are personally connected to people in my own life.

NAMI seeks to raise awareness and provide support and education for the individuals and families affected by mental illness. Through different programs, events and activities across the country, NAMI Keystone Pennsylvania works to break the stigma on mental illness. It’s hard to believe such a campaign is needed, but it is, and our chapter of PRSA will be providing pro bono public relations support to the organization until mid-2019.

Addressing Mental Illness in the Workplace

The goal of the CEOs Against Stigma campaign is to break the stigma of mental illness in the workplace. CEOs will pledge to educate themselves and employees about mental illness and how the stigma and silence affects workplace productivity.

A survey from 2014 conducted by NAMI Massachusetts found that out of the 800 registered voters, 17% said they knew of a co-worker who had a mental illness, but just 27% would advise someone with mental illness to tell their co-workers about it. The poll confirms that those who need help stay silent for fear of the consequences of their illness being disclosed in the workplace.

Getting the right information is the challenge of our time.

The reality and perception of mental illness is murkier than it should be. We are educated consumers when it comes to shopping and our own health. Our digital lives are constant, so getting information certainly isn’t elusive. But as we all know, getting the right information is the challenge of our time. To play a role in devising a strategic communication plan, which will include market research, marketing materials, social media, and media relations for “CEOs Against Stigma” is deeply gratifying. 

I expect to learn a great deal from this project. For NAMI Keystone Pennsylvania’s part, I feel as strongly about delivering an exceptional job to the organization as I have with any paid project. There’s a certain pride and pressure that accompanies volunteerism. Maybe it’s the issue we are addressing. Perhaps its that my peers on the board are sharp as tacks. Or it could be that after many years away from giving my time, I realize the gravity of the personal reward is truly great.

Learn more about CEOs Against Stigma.

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