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Understanding our kids: youth mental health and the road to resilience

What do you believe, theorize or feel is the “cause” of the rise in mental health issues? What is going on in your opinion?

While it may seem like mental health issues are on the rise, it's possible that we're simply becoming more aware of them. My work at allcove has led me to explore how language and socio-cultural barriers impact mental health, with a focus on the significant topic of intergenerational trauma. The isolation experienced during the post-COVID era, coupled with our growing reliance on social media, has undoubtedly altered our communication styles. However, I believe the increased mental health pressures we're observing are more directly linked to the challenges within our familial or chosen community dynamics. In a melting pot such as the Bay Area, with its tapestry of immigrant stories and varied experiences, navigating the intricate web of cross-cultural and intergenerational relationships is daunting. These complexities can exacerbate mental health issues if not examined through an appropriate mental health lens. It's imperative to address these unique challenges to foster understanding and healing across the diverse fabric of our communities.

– Aadya Mishra, Youth Mental Health Advocate and member of allcove Youth Advisory Group


Have you noticed a particular mindset among students, your peers, due to pressure? How might this mindset/stigma prevent youth from asking for help or support?

There's a pervasive belief that vulnerability equates to weakness, rather than recognizing it as the courage it takes to openly discuss personal challenges. This stigma is intensified when confidentiality is compromised in student mental health services. At last year's allcove statewide conference, my discussions with members of the youth advisory group from Orange County and Southern California highlighted this issue starkly. They recounted instances where counselors announced students' names over the public address system and notified parents following counseling sessions. I remember feeling a profound sense of shock. It's not hard to understand why students might hesitate to seek help or share their struggles if they fear being singled out or, in some sense, penalized for doing so.

– Aadya Mishra, Youth Mental Health Advocate and member of allcove Youth Advisory Group


How can we provide specific resources to LGBTQIA+ youth regarding mental health?

Our LGBTQIA+ identified youth continue to report disproportionately high levels of mental health and social challenges. Mountain View Los Altos High School District (MVLA) is deeply committed to providing a safe, supportive, and inclusive learning environment for all students, including our LGBTQIA+ identified students. MVLA has established MVLA Board Policy 5157 (Gender Identity and Access) and MVLA Administrative Regulation 5157 (Gender Identity and Access) to inform our students and community about student rights. MVLA has also developed a Gender Support Plan (sample copy) that we advertise to all students. We also continue to rely on the experience and the expertise of our students by working with our GSA Clubs in creating events and educational opportunities. All students who might need support are invited to complete the MVLA Student Support Form so that they can check in with a licensed clinician. Additional LGBTQIA+ support and educational resources for students and parents/guardians can be found on MVLA’s website.    

William Blair, Wellness Coordinator for the Mountain View Los Altos High School District


Can young people recognize when they’re in crisis?

Young people often have a keen awareness of their emotions, contrary to what some might think. However, they frequently suppress their feelings, either to prioritize other responsibilities or to disengage from their problems. In challenging situations, this coping mechanism can lead to feelings of helplessness, sometimes causing youth to disengage entirely. Yet, the presence of a supportive community can be a beacon of hope. It's crucial to remind them that they are not alone and have reliable support networks. Our society, it seems, has begun to normalize the deferral of emotional processing, a trend that we must actively work to reverse. Authentic engagement is key when we inquire about someone's well-being. We must ensure that our concern is not just perfunctory but is accompanied by a genuine offer of support and understanding. It's important to communicate that it's okay to take a moment for self-care and reliance on others when needed.

– Aadya Mishra, Youth Mental Health Advocate and member of allcove Youth Advisory Group


Does 988 send someone out? Or just provide resources? If the former, are there alternatives to 911 if you need immediate and in-person assistance?

When someone calls 988, they can request mobile crisis services, which will be sent out when the situation is deemed appropriate. Santa Clara County developed five mobile response program teams supporting various levels of risk and age groups to provide effective and compassionate crisis intervention to beneficiaries, families and the community who exhibit mental health symptoms and may be at risk for self-harm or harm to others and reduce hospitalizations and unnecessary incarcerations whenever possible. Community members can access these services individually or by calling 911 for both adults and children. However, it's important to note that the response from County’s mobile crisis team is not immediate when someone reaches 988, and it will only be dispatched if it's deemed appropriate.

Lupe Ramirez, LCSW, School Linked Services Mental Health Program Manager, Santa Clara County 


How can we as a community and district start conversations and support systems to provide aid to elementary/middle school students?

Mountain View Los Altos High School District’s Educational Services continues to strengthen our relationships with our partner district Los Altos School District and Mountain View Whisman School District. As each district responds to the ongoing mental health and social services crisis by building our internal infrastructures and expanding community partnerships. Our leaders have been collaborating on various initiatives to better align our practices. Examples of this include regular collaboration meetings, partnering with the Santa Clara County School-Linked Services initiative, joint health fairs and evening events such as the Parent Education Series, aligning our support structures for students identifying as LGBTQIA+, and designing and establishing Wellness Centers. 

William Blair, Wellness Coordinator for the Mountain View Los Altos High School District


If we support and agree with the need for peer support/peer counselors, how can we as teens or parents support its integration in the district?

Both Mountain View High School and Los Altos High School administrative teams are continuing to partner with students and staff to explore various peer-to-peer models. There is a wide continuum of what peer-to-peer might look like on campus, and administration is actively researching options. Teens or community members who wish to join the conversation about peer-to-peer programming or options, can reach out to their site administrators who oversee mental health and wellness.

William Blair, Wellness Coordinator for the Mountain View Los Altos High School District


Where can students from private schools and other schools find/access resources?

Mountain View Los Altos High School District (MVLA) collaborates with our partner districts (Los Altos School District and Mountain View Whisman School District) in curating community-based mental health, substance use treatment, and social services resources. Non-MVLA students can access these lists online through the MVLA website including our Community-based Mental Health Resource List and our Community-based Social Services Support Resource Guide

William Blair, Wellness Coordinator for the Mountain View Los Altos High School District

Additional information about mental health programs and resources that support the needs of children, youth, young adults, and their families is available online.

Meet our panelists

Aadya Mishra, Youth Mental Health Advocate and member of allcove Youth Advisory Group

Aadya Mishra is a senior at Saint Francis High School and an active member of the Youth Advisory Group at allcove. She has completed Question, Persuade and Refer suicide prevention and mental health first aid training, which provided her valuable insights into collaborating with staff on community workshops, supporting other YAG members on their projects, and developing her own initiatives. She has represented allcove at various outreach events, such as collaborating with YCS to introduce the Relationship Developmental Framework to parents in the Palo Alto community, and drafting and presenting the Bill of Rights for Children and Young Adults for Santa Clara County with her colleagues at the Santa Clara County Children's Summit.  She is currently part of a research initiative to create more actionable solutions with the Bill of Rights as its primary framework. 

Aria Rani Sindledecker, Youth Mental Health Advocate and Filmmaker

Aria Rani Sindledecker is a Sophomore at Mountain View High School. She is an advocate and activist for youth mental health. Rani is the President of the MVHS club chapter of Bring Change to Mind, a member of the BC2M Teen Advisory Board and a member of the MVHS Ambassadors.

Rani is also a documentarian, having created three award-winning short films that spotlight issues surrounding mental health: Power to Save a Life, which focuses on the social media crisis and the need for more digital citizenship in schools at an early age and won honorable mention for the C-SPAN StudentCam competition; Stigma-Free Nation: Pathway to Parity, which highlights mental health stigma among youth and the need for parity between physical and mental health services, and won first place out of 2000 middle school entries for the StudentCam competition; and The Peer-to-Peer Movement: Students Saving Lives airing at the event. 

William Blair, Wellness Coordinator for the Mountain View Los Altos High School District

William Blair is the Wellness Coordinator for the Mountain View Los Altos (MVLA) High School District where he oversees School-Based Clinical Services and Preventative Wellness Initiatives. William has been with MVLA since 2004 where he has served as an Assistant Principal and as an English, Leadership, and Psychology teacher. Over the years, William has coordinated a multitude of student and staff activities, diversity retreats, and student support services. In his role as an Administrator, William is committed to creating a more inclusive, equitable, supportive, and loving culture in all spheres of the MVLA community through honest communication, social-emotional skill-building, Identity Safety, and sustainable infrastructure. In 2009, William was honored as the MVLA Teacher of the year.

Jennifer Zumarraga, MD, Medical Director of the Mental Health and Addiction Services, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at El Camino Health

Dr. Jennifer Zumarraga serves as Medical Director for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at El Camino Health. She did her General Psychiatry training at The University of Rochester and her Child and Adolescent Fellowship at The University of Southern California. Dr. Zumarrage was part of the founding of After-School Program Interventions and Resiliency Education® (ASPIRE), which is an intensive outpatient treatment program that helps children, teens, and young adults with anxiety, depression, or other symptoms related to a mental health condition.