Walk In Our Shoes

The California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA) has an ambitious mission: to stop stigma surrounding mental illness.

For our Walk In Our Shoes (WIOS) campaign, we took that goal one step further to attempt to prevent stigma from forming in the first place. Staggering statistics revealed huge gaps in knowledge about mental health among 9- to 13-year-olds.

This impressionable age group just wasn’t getting accurate information about mental health. We wanted to give kids a chance to understand mental health by picturing life in someone else’s shoes in order to show that we all feel the same emotions but experience them differently.

This meant creating a youth-focused campaign to introduce kids to accurate, positive messages about mental health.

We wanted to take mental illness out of the shadows, initiate conversations with kids about mental health and illness, and communicate hope and recovery alongside the tough realities.

The Walk In Our Shoes campaign used stories from real youth to illustrate the struggles and resiliency of teens and young adults to build empathy and understanding about mental health.

We collaborated with a diverse team of cultural advisors and child development experts to create a multifaceted, multilingual campaign that told stories through an engaging website, a school-based theatrical performance and a statewide advertising campaign.

The immersive website featured the animated true stories and a shoe gallery that gave each visitor the opportunity to create a shoe that expressed their individuality and let them stand up to stigma.

Who knew that true stories and tiny shoes could have such
a big impact?





Over 2,000 visitors “stood up against stigma” by creating personalized shoes on the site.





The Walk in Our Shoes performance visited 31 counties and reached nearly 20,000 students throughout the state (four times more than our original goal of 5,000 students) in only nine weeks.