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Research Questions

  1. Who was reached by the campaign?
  2. What impact did contact with the campaign have?
  3. What were the experiences of those who attended the WeRise event?
  4. How do those exposed to the WhyWeRise campaign (through the WeRise event or other means) compare with those who were not?

In May 2018, the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health (LACDMH) launched WhyWeRise, a social marketing campaign intended to promote community engagement with mental health issues and create a movement to address barriers to mental health access. The campaign targets youth ages 14–24, with the goal of activating youth to advocate for well-being and access to quality mental health care as civil rights. A year later, the campaign still embodies the same general themes, but there was an increased emphasis in 2019 on confronting challenges to mental health and well-being. The current phase of the campaign notes the importance of feeling that life has purpose or meaning, the centrality of hope to well-being, and the need to obtain social support and provide it to others. In both 2018 and 2019, a central part of the WhyWeRise campaign was the WeRise event, which offers a large art gallery, a rally, performances, panels, and workshops.

To gain insight into the WhyWeRise reach and impact, RAND evaluated the campaign broadly and the WeRise event specifically, through in-person interviews of WeRise event attendees and an online survey of youth throughout Los Angeles County. The in-person survey looks at the experiences of those who attended the WeRise event, while the online survey allows for comparison of those who were exposed to the WhyWeRise campaign (through the WeRise event or other means) with those who were not exposed to the campaign.

Key Findings

WeRise continues to be a very positive experience for those attending and creates an environment supportive of mental health and well-being

  • Nearly all attendees would recommend the event to others, and the vast majority reported that the event made them want to be more supportive of those with mental health problems and made them feel empowered to take care of their own well-being.

Teens who attended the event appeared to gain a greater awareness of the challenges faced by individuals who have experienced mental health problems, better understanding of how to get mental health care, and increased empowerment

  • These apparent increases in mental health awareness occurred despite a prior familiarity with mental health issues (personal, professional, or through a friend or family member) among most attendees.

The survey of Los Angeles County youth found that at least 30 percent of youth were exposed to the WhyWeRise campaign

  • This is a substantial increase from 2018.
  • The campaign reached both males and females, and both teens and young adults, also reflecting improvement from the prior year.

Those exposed to the WhyWeRise campaign were more likely than those unexposed to feel empowered to change how their communities deal with mental health issues, and they had stronger intentions to take action to break down barriers to treatment

  • This suggests that the campaign's focus on mobilization to improve societal support for those experiencing mental health challenges has been effective and continues to resonate with Los Angeles County youth.
  • Young people exposed to WhyWeRise were more likely to report helping link individuals with mental health challenges to professional help and community resources.
  • This is consistent with the campaign's goal of enhancing support for mental health and well-being.
  • However, those exposed to WhyWeRise were less likely to feel hopeful about their own futures and were more likely to believe that those who have experienced mental health problems are never going to contribute much to society.


  • WeRise should consider bolstering aspects of the event that provide information about mental health services and resources and also consider using additional methods to build social support and reduce stigma around disclosure of mental illness among attendees.
  • The WeRise event should also work to engage more men, younger audiences, and those who do not have personal experience with mental health issues.
  • LACDMH should leverage the strong reach of WhyWeRise to extend its apparent impact to other outcomes, perhaps adding messaging focused on directly linking people to treatment and addressing mental illness stigma.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was funded the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA) and conducted by RAND Health Care.

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