YouthWell’s Success Creates New Collaborative Opportunities in Mental Health | Good for Santa Barbara

[Noozhawk’s note: Third in a series sponsored by the Hutton Parker Foundation. Click here for the first article, and click here for the second.]

Youth Good has come a long way since launching the nonprofit in 2016 to raise awareness of the need for mental health resources and services more suited to youth than adults.

Five years later, the emerging coalition of key community stakeholders provides mental health support to youth, young adults and their families through education, prevention and early intervention.

Just as YouthWell Founder and Executive Director Rachael Steidl and her supporters envisioned, dozens of mental health providers, advocates, educators and nonprofits are successfully making a difference. for those they serve.

“We bring everyone into the conversation,” Steidl told Noozhawk. “The reason we focus on collaboration is that it’s important to bring everyone to the table, not just organizations, but schools, the healthcare community, parents, youth and children. law enforcement.

Rachael Steidl
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Rachael Steidl, Founder and Executive Director of YouthWell, believes collaboration has been key to the success of the 5-year nonprofit. “We all need to hear from everyone and understand other points of view to be more solution-oriented,” she says. (Photo YouthWell)

“We all need to hear from everyone and understand other points of view to be more solution-oriented. “

Through a myriad of partnerships, YouthWell and allied agencies have developed education programs for students and parents, and they are working with the community to expand mental health services.

“Mental health is like any other health,” said Karen Kelly, Parent Liaison Officer National Charity League and Santa Barbara Charity Boys Team.

“We have people in schools, youth programs, but we have to look at them the same way we look at other youth programs: everyone knows they can enroll in basketball, soccer. or football. It should be that simple and acceptable to sign up for programs that support mental health, programs that teach us to live healthily. “

YouthWell achieved wide success in 2021, even with the additional mental health burdens associated with the almost 2-year-old COVID-19 pandemic. Given the magnitude of these challenges, his accomplishments are all the more impressive:

Connecting families: The online Directory of resources on youth mental health and well-being launched in January and already welcomes more than 2,500 visitors per month, in English and Spanish.

Empowerment of education: Eight Well-being workshops – with interpretation in Spanish – each reached over 250 parents, students and people working with young people, with over 1,100 additional views of the programs on YouthWell YouTube Channel.

Strengthen awareness: Through social media posts and community newsletters, YouthWell has opened conversations and initiated education on mental health issues. A “You Matter” social awareness campaign is expected to be launched next year. It was designed in collaboration with a group of students from across the county.

But it is in the realm of promoting change that the breakthroughs have been most profound, thanks in large part to YouthWell. Collaboration partner of nearly 50 stakeholders, which meets quarterly to work on systemic change.

A common program with the Family service agency and the Mental wellness center provides for free Mental health first aid for youth courses for parents and those who work with young people. Another partnership with Sanctuary Centers of Santa Barbara and Children’s medical clinic builds bridges to provide access to psychiatric and therapeutic services.

After discovering community models developed elsewhere, YouthWell began working with the Mental Wellness Center to explore the possibility of creating an integrated primary and behavioral health clinic for youth in Santa Barbara.

Of them allcove centers based on the successful work of BC programs (Foundry) and Australia (free space) recently opened in Santa Clara County under the leadership of Stanford University Center for Youth Mental Health and Well-Being. A group of community partners are working to bring the allcove model to Santa Barbara to provide more physical, emotional and social services by prioritizing early intervention.

“Not all children struggle with depression, but many find it difficult to feel connected,” Steidl said. “If they can come and learn tools to manage their mental health, that it’s okay to disagree, that therapy is okay, we can help reduce that stigma and provide people with the help they want. need before it’s too late. “

Riley Ellis, director of children and youth services at Sanctuary Centers, stressed the need for early education.

“In a perfect world,” she said, “we would have such a strong early education program that we would teach the skills of social-emotional learning, learning to talk about feelings and emotions, not having afraid of this., so that people – and children, in particular – don’t feel so alone in this process as we get older and life gets harder and harder. “

And it’s not just the youth, Ellis added.

“We were also teaching families to provide help in a healthy way,” she said. “We would have doctors readily available so that a suicide attempt that ends in the emergency room is not the first red flag, and we would fill in the gaps so that it does not take two years for someone who is struggling to get help. “

YouthWell signs
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YouthWell’s Critical Early Intervention Strategy includes simple tools to help young people identify signs of mental health vulnerability and learn how to deal with them before it’s too late. (Photo YouthWell)

The need for mental health services for young people has never been clearer, Steidl said, especially with the additional stressors brought on by COVID-19.

“If we look at the first 12 months of COVID in California, we’ve seen a huge drop in (emergency room) visits across the state for medical reasons, but a horrific increase in the number of children and adolescents with mental health issues, ”said Barry Schoer, executive director of Sanctuary Centers.

According to statistics compiled by the California Department of Public Health, Santa Barbara County has the 13th highest rate of youth suicide (ages 15 to 24) among California’s 58 counties.

Steidl quotes a Harris Poll who found that seven in ten teens struggle with mental health issues during the COVID-19 crisis. A Stanford University A survey last fall found that 83% of high school students reported at least one physical health symptom related to stress.

This kind of evidence is all the more motivating for YouthWell in its ongoing conversations with its partners. These discussions were the catalyst for the collaboration between the Sanctuary Centers and the Children’s Medical Clinic.

“We are sitting there at Health Chalet talk about the Collaboration in pediatric resilience, when YouthWell helps us understand that the big hole in early intervention with children was that pediatricians couldn’t get any referrals to mental health service providers, ”Schoer recalls.

“We have a huge shortage of psychiatric care in this city. It can take six months to get in to see one, and most don’t take Medical. “

In response, Sanctuary Centers hired a new psychologist, at the suggestion of YouthWell, in partnership with the Children’s Medical Clinic, and is quickly reaching a patient threshold that will require the addition of another psychologist.

When Cottage Health heard about the program through the Partner Collaborative, they asked for help with Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. It was one more step in filling another gap in mental health care in the community.

“Let’s get in early,” Steidl said. “Do not wait until people are in crisis.

“As a community, we can all make a difference. We don’t need to have all the answers, we just need to be prepared to lean in, listen, be compassionate, and offer our support so those who are struggling don’t feel alone.

“I believe we will have taken a step forward when we begin to treat mental health issues with the same respect and care that we show someone who has a physical illness or injury so that young people and caregivers do not. don’t be ashamed to ask for help. “

Click here for more information about YouthWell, or to become a partner, use the resource directory, donate or attend wellness workshops. Click here to subscribe to the monthly YouthWell newsletter for updates on mental health in Santa Barbara County. Click here to donate online.

– Contributing Writer of Noozhawk Jennifer Best can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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