Every once in awhile I meet someone who reminds me that the advocacy movement for children's mental health is in good hands with the up and coming generation. This past week, while walking through the lobby of the hotel where the Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health conference was being held, a young man named Wilton Johnson approached me and asked if I would pose for a picture holding a sign that said "Replace labels with love." He clearly knew the quickest way to my heart. The unfortunate stigmatizing labeling of the past has roared back with a vengeance on the coattails of the buzz around mental health reform in the halls of Congress. I am all for anything that helps stem the cancerous tide of stigmatizing language!
Wilton Johnson is a dynamo, pure and simple, and we need more people like him. The campaign that he is promoting, "Replace Labels with Love," is an Anti-Stigma Campaign launched in May of 2015 by M.O.V.E. Wisconsin during Children’s Mental Health Awareness Month. The premise behind the campaign is to remind people that labels put people in boxes and dismiss capabilities. Love empowers and promotes growth because everyone needs to be loved and not labeled. By replacing labels with love, we are reminding our community to use first person language when engaging and interacting with other members of our community.
Sounds pretty darned good to me. Contact MOVE Wisconsin to learn more about their efforts and maybe even score a cool button like I did!
Want to learn more about Wilton Johnson?
You can start by watching this video of a speech by Wilton Johnson from the Wisconsin Family Impact Seminar in February 2015. As well, read the article by Jabril Faraj of the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, on Mr. Johnson's participation in an innovative housing program for homeless young adults:
- New housing program provides ‘optimism and hope’ for homeless young adults
June 11, 2015, by Jabril Faraj, Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service
Wilton Johnson walked into his new home for the first time last week. Johnson, 24, lived in foster care from ages 9 to 14 and was homeless, off and on, for a period after that. Until recently, he worked at the airport assisting wheelchair-bound passengers get to their destination.
“We all know that housing for young adults is a huge need,” Johnson told a crowd gathered at a grand opening event for the six-unit house, part of Journey House’s Campus Housing Initiative. The initiative provides housing for “motivated youth” — young people ages 18 to 25 who have aged out of foster care and are going to school or working.
“This initiative reaffirms my faith in my city and my county,” Johnson said, adding that the program will provide “optimism and hope for me and many of my peers.” Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele also made remarks at the event.
In addition to Johnson, who will serve as a peer advisor for the program, five other youths between the ages of 18 and 22 have been identified by Milwaukee County Wraparound to fill the property at 741 S. 23rd St. Brian McBride of Project O-YEAH, which provides services to young people transitioning out of foster care, said the program identified individuals who “showed motivation, who stayed engaged within their treatment plans … and have struggled with the housing piece.”
Well, Network faithful, was I right about Wilton? We are indeed in good hands. We are fortunate to have a host of young adults like Wilton Johnson doing strong advocacy work across America. Take a moment to celebrate the Wilton Johnson in your life and let them know that you appreciate what they do.
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President & CEO
Children's Mental Health Network