Jeremy Wilson, senior program manager and public information officer for the California Mental Health Services Authority, feels grateful that fate has led him to his current position helping promote mental health, reduce related stigma, and prevent suicide.
“The stars have been aligning. I haven’t always seen the direction, but as I look back, mental health definitely found me as a cause, and I am so glad it did,” said Jeremy, one of the “Champions” the Steinberg Institute is celebrating during Mental Health Awareness Month.
Jeremy graduated from Chico State University with a B.A. in English and fortuitously went straight to work in Butte County for the Department of Behavioral Health while also consulting for the Center for Applied Research Solutions, a contractor with behavioral health expertise that brought youths together to get ideas for reducing underage drinking.
Early on, Jeremy got a chance to help craft public messaging campaigns. It’s a skill that has been central to his career since, and one that he has also plied in the political realm, notably as a campaign operative for Shannan Moon, who last year became Nevada County’s first female sheriff and the state’s first openly gay sheriff.
Jeremy went on to get a masters degree in public policy and public administration from Northwestern University while continuing to work for Butte County. There, he rose through the ranks to become the county coordinator for Mental Health Services Act programs and manager of public information, ethnic services, and workforce and development training.
An innovative and award-winning project in the last category opened new doors for Jeremy: He co-created an initiative to train librarians about behavioral health needs and available services, while also expanding and updating library resources in those areas. The project inspired the California State Library to hire Jeremy to do similar work in libraries across the state, which he did for the next two years.
Jeremy is passionate about spreading messages of encouragement and hope about mental health and substance use disorders. In part, he wants others to feel support like he got from his own “phenomenal” parents when some of his track teammates bullied him when he was in high school in Nevada County.
At the time Jeremy did not know, as he does today, that he was gay. He just knew he was a top student, a member of student government, and he didn’t do anything to be targeted. He got through that trying period with his family’s backing and help from a therapist.
“I do have this sense of responsibility, because my family did that for me, that I should give it to other people,” he said.
In 2018, Jeremy started his current assignment in Sacramento, where he is overseeing contractors working in prevention and early intervention at CalMHSA, which operates the ongoing “Each Mind Matters: California’s Mental Health Movement” campaign to reduce stigma and discrimination, promote student mental health, and prevent suicide.
Among other things, the job entails managing public awareness and education campaigns and providing technical assistance to county agencies and schools.
“I thoroughly enjoy what I do,” Jeremy said. “Mental health and substance use disorders are two of the most pressing social justice issues of my lifetime.”