Alameda mayor: Discussing mental health challenges is crucial

I recently attended a mental health awareness training presented by Kaiser Permanente clinicians who reported that today, three years after the COVID-19 pandemic started, one in five Americans struggle with mental health challenges. Yet despite the significant percentage of Americans impacted, someone struggling with mental health issues can take an average of eight to 10 years to seek treatment, the clinicians said.

Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft is the mayor of Alameda. (photo courtesy of Maurice Ramirez — BANG archives) 

That’s why it’s so important to recognize and communicate about mental health challenges: to reduce the stigma surrounding this topic so people will be more likely to get the help they need and get it sooner. Mental and physical health are intertwined, and untreated mental health conditions can lead to depression, substance abuse, sleep disruption, challenges at home and work and more. Talking about mental health can literally save lives.

Last month, Pennsylvania’s U.S. Sen. John Fetterman set a powerful example in an interview with National Public Radio shortly after returning to work after a six-week hospitalization to treat clinical depression. Fetterman acknowledged that he would previously have avoided any public discussion about his struggles with depression but that now he wants to share his experience to help others avoid the years of suffering he endured before seeking help.

To support mental health, the Kaiser clinicians stressed the importance of taking time for yourself, talking about how you’re feeling, practicing stress-reduction techniques and seeking help for yourself or others, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or “not yourself.” Useful resources are available for everyone, not just Kaiser members, online at and

Help wanted: Apply to serve on one of a dozen different Alameda boards and commissions whose members review a variety of city programs, projects and policies and make recommendations to the City Council. Volunteering on a city board or commission provides a wonderful opportunity to learn more about your city, work with other residents and talented city staff and help shape our city’s future.

Board and commission terms are generally four years and expire at the end of June, so now is a perfect time to apply for any panels that interest you. More information is available on the city’s website,, where you can also watch a meeting in real time, view videos of past meetings and review meeting agendas, minutes and related documents. For a list and descriptions of the vacancies, visit online. You can complete and submit your application online at

Below is a brief overview of the city’s boards and commissions.

The Civil Service Board ensures that recruitment, selection and retention of city employees is based on merit and done in a fair and unbiased manner, reviews job classifications and acts as a hearing board for certain disciplinary actions and grievances.
The Commission on Persons with Disabilities advises the City Council, other boards and commissions and city staff on issues impacting people with disabilities, e.g., traffic safety, planning new residential developments, climate action and more.
Golf commissioners receive and disseminate information and input among golfers, city staff, and the operator of Alameda’s Corica Park golf complex, Greenway Golf.
The Historical Advisory Board reviews and makes decisions about historic buildings, sites and districts (such as the Historic District at Alameda Point and the Park Street Historic District) and recommends policies to the City Council to preserve local historic resources.
The Housing Authority Board of Commissioners advises the city’s Housing Authority, which is building hundreds of new affordable homes, supports low-income Alameda households with rental assistance, provides housing vouchers to chronically homeless individuals and offers supportive social services.
Library Board members help shape policies governing library activities and preview upcoming library programs.
Planning Board members recommend policies to the City Council regarding land use, affordable housing and zoning, height limits and parking requirements and make decisions about the design of new buildings.
Public Art Commissioners make decisions and recommendations to the City Council about the selection and installation of public art, which includes performing arts as well as art in public places.
The Public Utilities Board oversees the work of our locally owned electric utility, Alameda Municipal Power (AMP), that provides 100% carbon-free power to Alameda residents and businesses, helping the city meet its ambitious climate goals. Some business experience or utility industry background may be useful.
Recreation and Parks Commissioners review new playground and park designs, provide input on recreation programs and policy and attend fun community events!
The Social Service Human Relations Board (SSHRB) works with the city on implementing its Homelessness Strategic Plan and other homelessness-related initiatives and develops an Annual Work Plan and Community Needs Assessment.
The Transportation Commission advises the City Council on transportation projects and policies that enhance safety and mobility for all roadway users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users and people with disabilities.

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Please consider sharing your time and talent with your city by serving on a city board or commission. After submitting an application, you may be invited to a Zoom interview with the mayor (me) and the city staff member who oversees the board(s) or commission(s) you’ve applied for. Alameda’s mayor nominates potential board and commission members, and the full City Council votes to approve them.

We love a parade: Alameda shines on July Fourth each year as our (reportedly) “longest-in-the-nation” parade traverses the city from Park to Webster streets. Past entries have included local businesses, civic organizations, neighborhood groups, Scout troops, marching bands and more. And there are prizes! We’re looking for 2023 entries and parade sponsors. Visit online for more information.

Help shine a light on mental health, get involved with local government and join the parade — be “Alameda Strong!”

Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft is the mayor of Alameda.

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