film students (copy)

Cast and crew of Lights Camera Action (LCA), Millikan High School’s film club, take a bow last summer after a film festival exploring teen issues at the Art Theatre.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in five youth aged 13-18 experiences a severe mental health condition at some point during their life. Also, 75 percent of adults with mental illness report having symptoms prior to the age of 24.

Recognizing the need to assist struggling youngsters, Dignity Health has partnered with UniHealth Foundation and Southern California school districts to bring mental health awareness training to school staff and parents. The result is the Cultural Trauma and Mental Health Resiliency Project, a program designed to support adults who regularly interact with youth.

Over the course of three years, $4 million will be provided by Dignity Health and UniHealth Foundation. These funds will be used for classes to help adults identify youngsters in mental distress and work to address the impacts of trauma, reduce stigma, and increase resiliency.

“These trainings,” said Carly Randolph, manager of Youth Mental Health at Dignity Health, “are intended for individuals who may come across a young person in distress so that they can refer them to the proper resources for help.”

During the first year of the program, staff members at nine different organizations will train 7,200 people throughout Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties. The National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) Long Beach Area has been selected as one of nine organizations to receive grants for community training. NAMI will teach Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) staff as well as community members and leaders in other local organizations.

NAMI Long Beach is a volunteer-based organization whose purpose is to support, educate and advocate about mental illness in Long Beach. For this project, NAMI will lead two 8-hour courses: Mental Health First Aid and Youth Mental Health First Aid. Participants in the Mental Health course will learn risk factors and warning signs for mental health and addiction concerns. The Youth Mental Health component will teach school staff, parents, and other caring citizens how to help an adolescent experiencing a mental health or addiction challenge or crisis.

Belinda Rabano, president of NAMI Long Beach, said she is excited to be working on this issue with Dignity Health and St Mary Medical.

“We are committed to raising awareness around mental health conditions and to providing badly needed education and support to the greater Long Beach Area,” Rabano said.

Dr. Lynn Yonekura, director of Community Health at Dignity Health-California Hospital Medical Center, explained that, “linking youth to the mental health resources they need is one way we are helping schools to decrease disciplinary referrals, decrease the suicide rate, decrease absenteeism, and increase on-time graduation.”

The three-year project will provide much needed assistance to Southern California schools.

“Mental health challenges hinder success for our students, and we are grateful for partners like Dignity Health who invest in solutions to these challenges,” said Dr. Dale Marsden, superintendent of San Bernardino City Unified School District. “The Cultural Trauma and Mental Health Resiliency Project is providing important resources to ensure the kids in our community will get the help they need to thrive.”

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