Palo Alto nonprofit Children's Health Council (CHC) launched this week its Teen Mental Health Initiative, with the goals of preventing teen suicide and improving youth wellness through increased services, education and community engagement.
Citing distressing statistics familiar to those who work around youth mental health -- that one in five adolescents has a diagnosable mental-health disorder yet less than half of teens with such disorders have received any kind of treatment in the past year -- CHC Executive Director Rosalie Whitlock said in a press release that her organization "feel(s) a very strong calling to do our part to address the significant teen anxiety, depression and suicide that is affecting our local communities.
"Many of us live in this community or have raised kids here, so it is our personal call to action as well as a professional one to open our doors and serve more teens and families in the community in a very actionable way," she said.
The initiative seeks to increase access to services for teens, raise awareness about mental health throughout the community and sustain community engagement around these issues.
"Sadly, many teens who struggle with anxiety or depression, and who are at risk for attempting suicide never receive the treatment they need in large part because of stigma, lack of access to care, or lack of knowledge about their symptoms," said Ramsey Khasho, director of The Center at CHC. "CHC's Teen Mental Health Initiative is focused on removing these barriers so those who need help can receive early diagnosis and treatment utilizing a very community-based approach to prevention and early intervention."
As part of the initiative, CHC has hired more mental-health professionals and expanded the services it provides local teens to include individual, family and group therapy, peer-to-peer counseling, medication assessment and monitoring. To remove cost as a barrier to treatment, Children's Health Council offers services on a sliding scale and is "actively fundraising to help offset some of these costs of services," the press release states. The organization also offers free 30-minute consultations "as a way for families to get started."
In January 2017, CHC also plans to open an on-site Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) for adolescents who might not require inpatient psychiatric hospitalization but need more serious treatment. Other future plans to remove barriers to treatment for teens include starting a teen advice line and offering virtual therapy.
A central focus of the new initiative is community education. As such, Children's Health Council will launch a series of classes on mental health in September to address a range of topics for teens, parents and teachers "in a very practical, relevant and action-oriented way," the release states.
Class topics will include "The Teen Brain and Parenting," "Challenges for LGBTQ Teens," "Being a Teen in the Valley," and "Survivors of Loss or Attempt," among others, according to CHC. Classes will be available in both English and Spanish.
Children's Health Council is also planning on developing an education program on teen mental health that would be appropriate for schools, said Micaelia Randolph, CHC's director of communications and marketing.
"This program will be developed collaboratively and will involve schools, community experts, local teens, parents and educators," she wrote in an email.
CHC will be bringing on a new hire to lead and coordinate this effort, she added.
Children's Health Council is also partnering with Stanford University to "unite and mobilize the community and collaboratively develop actionable solutions," around youth mental-health issues, the release states. The two organizations will work to "engage partners to leverage complimentary resources, and create a web of support that accurately and adequately captures the needs of teen mental health in the community."
They plan to convene a communitywide team on a regular basis to support and sustain community efforts -- and provide "accountability" to action promised on teen mental health, the release states.
They will also organize a yearly symposium and other events on on teen mental health and wellness to bring together and further educate young people, parents, educators and professionals.
CHC and Stanford will also partner with other organizations working to support youth mental health, such as Palo Alto collaborative Project Safety Net and Partnering for Healthy Minds, a public-private effort in the Bay Area to support individuals affected by mental illness and substance abuse.
An annual breakfast panel hosted by CHC will continue this focus on the new Teen Mental Health Initiative in March 2017. The organization's last breakfast in February, too, explored these topics, and became a jumping-off point for Children's Health Council's increased efforts
to support local youth. The nonprofit has been serving children, youth and teenagers in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties for nearly 65 years with both services and school sites and centers.
To directly involve teenagers in this effort, Children's Health Council is seeking local high school students to join a new Teen Mental Health Committee for students who "want to raise issues about teen anxiety and use their voices to implement change in the community."
Any person who is feeling depressed, troubled or suicidal is urged to call 1-800-784-2433 to speak with a crisis counselor. People in Santa Clara County can also call 1-855-278-4204.
People can also reach trained Crisis Text Line counselors by texting "HELLO" to 741741.
Links below provide more resources where one can receive help: