- One in three county youths ages 14 to 25 and one in six adults ages 26 and older were exposed to some aspect of WeRise.
- WeRise reached most major racial or ethnic groups in the county, particularly Hispanic- or Latino-identifying residents.
- Only a small portion of those reached attended the events, indicating the importance of embedding events in the context of a larger campaign to have a broad impact.
- Perceptions of the events were very positive, with the vast majority saying that the event they attended connected them with resources and community, showed some of the strengths of their community, empowered them to take care of their well-being, helped them heal, and showed the healing power of creative expression.
- Residents exposed to the campaign were more likely to feel mobilized around mental health issues.
WeRise is an annual set of events funded by the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health (LACDMH) as part of the county's slate of programs targeting prevention and early intervention (PEI) for mental health challenges among county residents. The primary aim of WeRise 2022 events was to promote health, healing, and well-being and to address community-identified needs. The events also aimed to raise awareness of resources available to support mental health and well-being in Los Angeles County and emphasized reaching youth under age 25 and their support networks.
WeRise has been a central component of LACDMH's broader social marketing campaign, known as WhyWeRise. The initial WeRise event, in May 2018, was held in downtown Los Angeles, coinciding with Mental Health Month. It was an immersive experience where visitors could choose to spend time at a large art gallery, a rally, performances, panels, and workshops. The 2020 WeRise events were conducted wholly online because of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. In 2021, LACDMH used a hybrid model for WeRise. Online events were a strong focus, together with “pop-up” COVID-19-safe in-person events held in communities throughout the county. In 2022, LACDMH took this strategy of diverse, “hyperlocal,” community-centered events throughout the county a step further. As a strategy of promoting wellness, LACDMH provided direct support to a set of trusted community partners with diverse missions and populations served to conduct WeRise events that the community partners independently conceived.
This community-led approach was founded on the idea that communities know their needs best and more closely integrated WeRise with the community mobilization strategy that has driven the county's WhyWeRise social marketing campaign. The WhyWeRise campaign was designed to engage and mobilize county residents around the topic of mental health (i.e., to “rise up” and change the way mental health challenges and well-being are addressed). LACDMH's strategy for WeRise in 2022 included providing organizations in Los Angeles County communities with the funding to do so. WeRise events and the WhyWeRise campaign have always included youth and individuals with diverse racial, cultural, economic, and other backgrounds as important subpopulations to reach with their activities. This was true of WeRise in 2022 as well.
To gain insight into the reach and impact of the 2022 WeRise effort, LACDMH and the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA) commissioned the RAND Corporation to conduct an evaluation. We previously evaluated the 2018 and 2019 WeRise events and the online portion of the 2021 WeRise events. Events were canceled in 2020 because of COVID-19 (Collins et al., 2018; Collins et al., 2019; Collins, Eberhart, Estrada-Darley, and Roth, 2022). In prior years, we conducted our WeRise evaluations alongside evaluations of WhyWeRise. In 2022, updates to WhyWeRise were in progress, so the WeRise events were evaluated as a stand-alone. We conducted in-person surveys of attendees at the WeRise events and (separately) online surveys of representative samples of Los Angeles County residents ages 14 to 25 (“youths” hereafter) and 26 and older (“adults” hereafter). The WeRise event survey looks at the experiences of those who attended the WeRise events. The WeRise countywide survey allows for comparison of those who attended the WeRise events and/or encountered marketing and other outreach associated with the events with those who did not, two months after attendance, to assess program reach and possible short-term effects of attendance.
Event-attendee survey results indicated that the events were very positively received. Events were well branded as WeRise, and the purpose of WeRise was understood by those attending, indicating that the move to fund community organizations did not result in loss of branding or messaging around mental health. Attendees felt empowered by the events, connected to community, and mobilized to address issues related to mental health in their communities.
Countywide survey results indicated that the WeRise events and outreach reached a fairly substantial percentage of Los Angeles County residents: One in three youth and one in six adults reported exposure. WeRise was effective in reaching most major racial or ethnic groups in the county, particularly Hispanic- or Latino-identifying residents. However, only a small portion of those reached attended the events. Although this is to be expected, it reveals the importance of embedding events in the context of a larger campaign to have a broad impact. The majority of individuals reached by WeRise found it beneficial. Residents exposed to the campaign were more likely to feel mobilized around mental health issues, were more aware of mental health information and resources, and felt better able to heal from past-year stress than were those not exposed. However, there were few differences in well-being or stigma associated with exposure. These outcomes may be harder to change and require a different approach.
In summary, there is evidence that the LACDMH WeRise events and outreach successfully reached groups of Los Angeles County residents particularly in need of mental health support, such as youth. Although we see no evidence that community well-being improved, the events may have mobilized those exposed around mental health issues and boosted awareness of mental health resources.