Dedication to Social Justice Drives Mental Health Professional Jessica Diaz France
2012 San Francisco State Mental Health Program Grad Flourishes
Her strong belief in social justice is what motivated Jessica Diaz France to pursue an education and a career in social work. “I believe that with the right support and resources people, can lead healthy and fulfilling lives,” says Jessica, a 2012 graduate of CalSWEC’s Mental Health Program at San Francisco State University.
Observing the predicaments of clients coming to a non-profit law firm where she worked is what led Jessica to seek a social work career. “I saw clients cycle in and out of services because their underlying mental illness was not being addressed. This motivated me to want to work on preventing legal issues by addressing mental illness issues directly and partnering with community agencies to provide sustainable and wraparound services.”
She chose the Mental Health Program at San Francisco State. It was an experience she enjoyed because “it allowed me to work in a community mental health setting as a graduate student. My internship at the County of Marin prepared me for my future position because I was able to learn alongside licensed clinicians as well as be a part of an intern program with Ph.D.- level students. It was my first exposure to community mental health and introduced me to a multidisciplinary approach to mental health care.”
Jessica currently is a Mental Health Practitioner on the Adult Case Management Team of the Division of Mental Health and Substance Use Services of the Department of Health and Human Services—the same division where she interned in as a graduate student.
Advocating for Clients and Promoting a Message of Recovery
The lack of mental health resources in Marin County, especially for housing, can have far-reaching effects on clients, Jessica observes. “We do not have the ability to house as many clients that need it, due to a lack of low-income and affordable housing. In addition, we have a limited number of beds at board and cares and in our inpatient hospital setting, which means that many clients need to go out of the county for this and higher levels of care,” she says. “It can be challenging for the clients to live far away from their family and community, and challenging to coordinate care from a distance for the clinician.”
Still, Jessica relishes the career she has chosen. “I like that my career promotes advocacy for our clients and community. In my position now, I am often called on to provide consultation to other agencies and partner with other county departments in order to provide services to my clients,” she says. “I am supported by my supervisors and team to pursue projects that promote recovery from mental illness that extend beyond my caseload but to the community as a whole.”
These projects sometimes tap into her other talents as well. In 2014, Jessica created the “Recovery is Possible (Happy)” YouTube video, the key to a campaign promoting the message “Recovery is Possible” from mental illness. Clients, their families, and staff dance to “Happy” while displaying written messages of hope and recovery in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese in the entertaining, uplifting video.
Many Roles, Same Dedication
Jessica also currently serves on the Cultural Competency Advisory Board for Mental Health and Substance Use Services. “My role has been to help design training for staff and work on projects, such as consulting to revamp our website and designing a campaign to reduce stigma around mental illness.” she explains.
Jessica’s dedication to social justice extends beyond her current county position. She has also been involved with The Body Positive for over 14 years, as a peer educator, presentation specialist, and is now chair of its Board of Directors.
“The Body Positive teaches people how to overcome conflicts with their bodies so they can lead happier, more productive lives. We are dedicated to inspiring youth and adults to value their health, unique beauty, and identity so they can use their vital resources of time, energy, and intellect to make positive changes in their own lives and in the world.” Says Jessica, “My work with The Body Positive complements my work in mental health because I promote healthy self-care and self-love to all of my clients and people that I meet.”