Author Archives: Jei Africa

Catholic Charities at SMHS Parent Project


2(Photo L-R):Felipe Navarro (Catholic Charities), Rocio Lemus (Parent Project Facilitator), Diana Otero (Catholic Charities), and Alexi Rosales (Parent Project Facilitator)

Due to a high level of fear and anxiety being experienced by families, on Tuesday, February 28th Parents Project participants received important information about current immigration policies and what to do if stopped by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  Diana Otero, Program Director for Catholic Charities Refugee & Immigrant Services in San Mateo County, began by asking parents how they were feeling about the current situation. She reminded the group that this is not the first time immigrant communities have been targeted. Parents were encouraged to 1) know their rights, 2) be prepared, 3) become a legal resident, if possible.  More importantly, to not let fear paralyze them from seeking accurate information and preparing for the future. With the message “don’t stress, plan,” the presentation concluded with a call to action, parents were given the phone number to Congress and asked to call each day to ask for immigration reform.  Many parents expressed feeling less anxious and more reassured after the presentation.

For more information about the Parent Project, contact Frances Lobos at


Surgeon General Releases Landmark Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health

Yesterday, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy released a new, landmark report on alcohol and drugs, and health. “Alcohol and drug addiction take an enormous toll on individuals, families, and communities,” said Dr.  Murthy. “Most Americans know someone who has been touched by an alcohol or a drug use disorder. Yet 90 percent of people with a substance abuse disorder are not getting treatment. That has to change.” This report is significant because it is the first ever report on addiction from a top federal health official. Some of the highlights of the 428-page include:

Addiction is costly with an estimated cost of $442 billion each year.

Addiction is a disease and not a moral failing.

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) was identified as an evidence-based component of care.

For the full report and executive summary, visit

Parents from the Migrant Education Program trained in YMHFA

After three evening sessions, parents from the Migrant Education Program in South San Francisco were trained in Spanish Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA).  The Migrant Education Program, provided by South San Francisco Unified School District, is a program that funds and supports educational programs for migratory children and their families. The program’s School Liaison/Recruiter, Veronica Benavides, helped coordinate YMHFA for parents in collaboration with Behavioral Health and Recovery Services Office of Diversity and Equity (ODE).


Youth Mental Health First Aid is offered in English and Spanish.

For more information about YMHFA, visit or contact Natalie Andrade at or 650-372-8548.

Understanding How to Show Respect! 24/7

On October 17th, San Mateo County Office of Education hosted its 3rd annual Respect! 24/7 conference. This year the theme was Inclusive and Resilient Communities, and keynote speaker, Micah Jacobson of The Boomerang Project, truly reminded all of the teachers, administrators, and educational advocates of what it felt like to time-warp back into middle school life. Through Jacobson’s flawless character impersonations of past middle school peers, his vivid stories of how he felt being the new kid at a new school in his 8th grade year, and encouraging all of us attending the conference to strip ourselves of ego and slip into the vulnerability of being silly during certain interactive exercises, as well as bravely sharing intimate details of our personal goals and fears. By the time the first hour of the conference ended, we all understood the experience of creating a community through inclusiveness ad resiliency, and moved into participating even more gem-fill workshops on topics such as One Love: A Movement to End Relationship Abuse, presented by The One Love Foundation; Special Olympics Unified Strategy for Schools, presented by  the Special Olympics of Northern California; Suicide Prevention and Intervention in Schools, presented by Crisis Services of BHRS; Using restorative Practices in San Mateo-Foster City School District; and Youth Mental Health First Aid, presented by Office of Diversity and Equity of BHRS.

So, what does the phrase “inclusive and resilient communities” actually mean? The conference challenged our thinking that at one point in our lives we have endured feelings associated with simply being left out. This notion of shared understanding among the group is also the mindset that can be built-in to our students’ environment to help our youth acknowledge that we all have shared experiences.  If we all remain inclusive of one another we will be stronger and more resilient as a whole, especially when we need the support the most.

I assure you, words cannot fully describe the impact all the presenters and workshops had on the audience. If you were unable to attend this year’s Respect! 24/7 conference, I urge you to visit the San Mateo County Office of Education Respect! 24/7 initiative page, or follow San Mateo County Office of Education on Twitter @SMCOE to see updates on upcoming conferences and trainings!

by Chenece Blackshear, ODE Intern

Invite Young People to Play A Role in Suicide Prevention


Helping young people learn the warning signs and how to intervene is a crucial life skill that will prepare them to support their friends and family members. Fortunately, there are many exciting programs that offer unique and interesting ways to engage young people in suicide prevention.

The Directing Change Program & Film Contest encourages young people ages 14-25 to create 60-second films about suicide prevention and mental health. Host a local screening, encourage young people to submit a film to the contest, or host a local screening, or ask your local movie theater to show a film. To view and download films and find several suicide prevention resources for schools and young people, visit

Active Minds Suicide Prevention Month 2016 is encouraging supporters to highlight the reasons they speak up about mental health and suicide prevention by using the hashtag #ReasonsISpeak and cumulating in Active Minds National Day Without Stigma on October 3, 2016.   A cornerstone of Active Minds Suicide Prevention Month is their blog series, which features the stories of suicide attempt survivors and survivors of suicide.  For blogs, social media events and Twitter chats visit

Daily Challenge: Be inspired!

  • Take 60 seconds to watch one Directing Change film today and share it via social media with #directingchange and #eachmindmatters. Watch one of four films created by San Mateo County youth at (select “San Mateo County” link).


How Saving Lives Can Save Money


A study published by Journal of Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior set out to examine the true and updated cost of suicide by looking at reported suicides and also accounting for unreported attempts and calculated both the direct and indirect costs associated with such suicidal acts. In 2013, the cost of reported suicide and suicide attempts was $58 billion and the study found that after adjusting for underreporting the true cost was instead $93 billion.

The direct costs are those that were directly related to the treatment of the injury and the indirect costs are the productivity losses of premature death such as the net value of future salaries or the productivity that is lost as a result of the injury. After examining these costs, the study determined that indirect costs made up 97% of the total cost suicide acts.

The article also notes that “1 in 10 deaths by suicide were by people who had been seen in the emergency department within 2 month of their death” highlighting the need to fund and implement early intervention programs.

The study conducted interviews about tertiary care that is supposed to happen after the first incident focusing on the existing care process, barriers to effective care delivery, how they could improve care delivery. The findings identified a lack of capacity and expertise to screen for suicidal behavior in emergency departments, difficulties securing community based behavioral health resources, challenges in communicating with therapists, and a poor system for following up with referrals.

Some of the recommendations that they provide for improving care after suicidal acts are:

  • Requiring every patient in emergency or trauma units get a comprehensive suicide assessment and be connected to the appropriate services such as hospitalization or brief treatment before being discharged as well as providing referrals to community based behavioral health providers
  • Collaboration from emergency departments, inpatient services, and the community to come up with a comprehensive list of services and providers
  • Development of a good network to establish comprehensive support services
  • Develop better ways to keep track and make sure patients follow through with referrals to those continued services

Although providing more extensive services would increase the medical (direct) costs of suicide by $2.7 billion, the study projects that psychotherapeutic and other interventions would lower overall suicides by 10% resulting in savings of $9.4 billion leaving a benefit-cost ratio of 6 to 1.


By Nixi-Cruz Sanchez, Mental Health Intern, Office of Diversity and Equity

What do I need to know about older adult suicide prevention?


When most people think about suicide, young people come to mind. What many people do not know is that suicide rates are higher among older adults than any other age group, particularly among men. Physical and social challenges related to aging can increase the risk of depression, anxiety and isolation, but help is available for coping with these challenges.

Warning signs of suicide for older adults

How the warning signs are expressed or what you might hear or observe can be different from a younger person.

  • Depression
  • Hopelessness
  • Withdrawal
  • Preoccupied with death
  • Looking for means to self-harm
  • Changes in sleep
  • Saying goodbye
  • Increased substance use
  • Neglecting doctor’s orders
  • Failure to take care of self

If you observe these warning signs, especially if they are new or unusual for the person, or if something doesn’t seem right to you, take action. The most important thing to do is ask the person directly if they are considering killing themselves.  Then listen and let them know you care and truly want to help.

Suggest a few services and supports. Offer to sit with them while they call, or accompany them to an office visit.

Daily Challenge: Learn about older adult suicide prevention and supports for older adults in San Mateo County by attending a Suicide Prevention Among Older Adult Provider Training on September 13, 12:15-1:30pm at the San Mateo County Health System, 225 37th Avenue, Room 100, San Mateo.

This event is for providers, community partners, & community members serving adults 60 & over. Please RSVP to: Dina Gibbs, CME Coordinator,, by September 9 (space is limited).

« Older Entries