About MHA

Inspired by the courage of our national organization, the Mental Health America of San Diego County (MHASD) was founded in 1942 as the first mental health advocacy organization in San Diego County.  MHASD brings together clients, families, professionals, providers, community leaders, and the public to collaborate, cooperate, and ensure available affordable care to all citizens.  Over the years, MHASD has offered numerous programs and services focused on the following four areas: Advocacy, Education, Services, and Research.

Our Mission:

Mental Health America of San Diego County is dedicated to promoting mental health, preventing mental disorders and achieving victory over mental illnesses through advocacy, education, research and service.

Our Vision:

Mental Health America of San Diego County envisions a just, humane and healthy society in which all people are accorded respect, dignity and the opportunity to achieve their full potential free from stigma and prejudice.


(619) 543-0412


4069 30th St.
San Diego, CA 92104

Suicide Prevention:

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, call: 1.800.273.TALK (1.800.273.8255)

Get in touch:

Senior and Administrative Staff


Daphyne Watson, MSW
Executive Director

Office: (619) 543-0412 Ext. 109

MIchael M new

Michael Mandefro, MSF
Director of Finance

Office: (619) 543-0412 Ext. 110

Melissa Meza

Melissa Meza
Administration/Human Resources

(619)-543-0412 Ext. 108


Linda Wong Kerberg, LMFT
Director of Programs

Office: (619) 543-0412 Ext. 104

Board of Directors

Member Role Member Name Member Position Member Company
Chairperson Cecil H. Steppe   Project Save Our Children
Treasurer Anette Witt, MSW Director Department of Psychiatry
Director Elizabeth Bustos Director Be There Community Engagement
Director Ruth Covell, MD Clinical Professor UCSD School of Medicine
Director James C. Lugannani.
Director Joe Pastore In House Counsel  
Director William Stewart  
Director Daphyne Watson, Ex-Officio Executive Director Mental Health America
Director Lisa S. Weinreb, Esq. Assistant Chief Juvenile Division, District Attorney's Office

The Story of Our Symbol

Cast from shackles which bound them, this bell shall ring out hope for the mentally ill and victory over mental illness.

During the early days of mental health treatment, asylums often restrained people who had mental illnesses with iron chains and shackles around their ankles and wrists. With better understanding and treatments, this cruel practice eventually stopped.

In the early 1950s, Mental Health America issued a call to asylums across the country for their discarded chains and shackles. On April 13, 1956, at the McShane Bell Foundry in Baltimore, Md., Mental Health America melted down these inhumane bindings and recast them into a sign of hope: the Mental Health Bell.

Now the symbol of Mental Health America, the 300-pound Bell serves as a powerful reminder that the invisible chains of misunderstanding and discrimination continue to bind people with mental illnesses.

Today, the Mental Health Bell rings out hope for improving mental health and achieving victory over mental illnesses.

Over the years, national mental health leaders and other prominent individuals have rung the Bell to mark the continued progress in the fight for victory over mental illnesses.


Source: Mental Health America © Copyright Mental Health America

Priority Statements

MHASD selects the following Priority Statements within each of the three highest ranked areas:

Public Awareness and Education — An organized, tested, externally focused effort to educate the general public regarding the centrality of mental health and substance use issues to overall health. Messages must be audience relevant and culturally sensitive. Education also includes programs geared towards clients and providers.

  • MHASD will focus on reducing stigma relating to mental illness and addictive diseases.
  • MHASD will promote the connection of physical health and its impact on mental health and wellness.

Leadership & Partnership — Defines MHA as a critical entity in the ongoing fight for mental wellness, recovery for both individual and population health. Provides local community leadership to bring people together to advocate, raise public awareness and partners with other community groups to address issues of mental health, mental illness and substance use conditions in our community.

  • MHASD will focus on increasing the coordination and communication with mental health and with our aligned community partners to address common issues.
  • MHASD will work to improve communications/collaboration between the public and private mental health systems.

Advocacy — An organized program of communication and political activities intended to affect policy, opinion or practice through persuasion and/or popular pressure.

  • MHASD will advocate for integration and coordination of physical health and behavioral health (mental health and substance abuse use addictions).
  • MHASD will focus on decreasing fragmentation and increasing access to mental health services in San Diego, and to building a strong continuum of care.