Category Archives: Children/Youth & Family

How Knowing the Signs Can Help Save a Life


Natalie Andrade with ALGEE the MHFA mascot

Before I started working at the Office of Diversity and Equity (ODE), I did not have a clue as to what the warning signs of suicide, depression, and anxiety were. It wasn’t until I became a Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) instructor that I realized the importance of knowing the signs of mental health challenges. During my instructor training, taught by two amazing trainers from the National Council, I felt empowered to go back to my community and teach others important skills one can learn from the training. Knowing the signs of suicide can help save a life, yet the most challenging piece of knowing the signs is having the courage to start the conversation about suicide with someone you are concerned about.

In the YMHFA training, participants practice using a 5-step action plan called ALGEE, which stands for:


  • Assess for risk of suicide or harm
  • Listen nonjudgmentally
  • Give reassurance and information
  • Encourage appropriate professional help
  • Encourage self-help and other support strategies

Read more

Seeking BHRS Consumers/Clients for Focus Group

Have you or your child initiated services within the last 6 to 12 months from a San Mateo BHRS program, county clinic or contracted agency? If so, you are invited to participate in a focus group to give your opinions to an external quality review organization not affiliated with San Mateo County.

There are 15 spaces available for each focus group, so sign up soon if you’re interested! To sign up, call Claudia (650-573-2189) or Lee (650 372-6118) at the Office of Consumer and Family Affairs. Transportation assistance and interpreters are available with 48 hours advance notice. Check out theses fliers in English and Spanish for more information.

Wednesday, December 13, 1 to 2:30 p.m.

Adult Clients
Thursday, December 14, 10:15 to 11:45 a.m.




What does “Sana, Sana Colita de Rana” mean for the Latino community?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

For the last 5 years the Office of Diversity and Equity’s Latino Collaborative has put together the Annual Latino Health Forum, “Sana, Sana Colita de Rana” to provide an opportunity for Latino families to come together to learn strategies for emotional and physical well-being.

But what does the phrase “Sana, Sana Colita de Rana” mean?

When translated literally it means “heal, heal, little frog’s tail.” This expression is commonly used in many Latino communities to offer consolation when one, specifically a child, has fallen or gotten hurt. The phrase continues with “if you don’t heal today, you will heal tomorrow.” At its core this message is meant to offer relentless encouragement, that while we may be suffering today, things will get better tomorrow. 

Read more

Youth Mental Health First Aid to host 100th class

Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) has been offered by the BHRS Office of Diversity and Equity since 2013.  Since inception, we have successfully trained 1,711 individuals in San Mateo County.  The 100th class will be held at Puente, located in Pescadero.  Puente serves the San Mateo South Coast communities of Pescadero, La Honda, Loma Mar and San Gregorio.  They advocate for their communities and promote individual and community health and wellness.

YMHFA is an 8 hour public education program which introduces participants to unique risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems in adolescents.  It builds understanding of the importance of early intervention and teaches individuals how to help an adolescent in crisis or experiencing a mental health challenge.  YMHFA uses role playing and interactive discussions to demonstrate how to access, intervene and provide initial help.

YMHFA creates the time, space and safe environment for learning and understanding how to support youth by using empathy and compassion.  The outcomes indicate that:

  • 79% of individuals who completed the training report feeling more confident to recognize the signs of a mental health challenge or crisis.
  • 78% feel more confident to reach out to a young person experiencing a mental health challenge or crisis.
  • 84% feel more confident to assist a young person to seek professional help.
  • 83% feel more confident to assist a young person to connect with community, peer and personal supports.

Not only do participants feel more confident recognizing signs, reaching out or assisting a young person, they are actually using Youth Mental Health First Aid in their everyday lives.

“If I see a student acting in a way that might suggest he/she is having some emotional difficulties, I am more confident to approach the student, ask questions and a couple of times I have suggested the availability of help in school and follow up with the students,” said one participant six months after the  training.

“I asked a student if they felt suicidal,” stated another participant who discussed the difficult but often crucial task of asking a young person about suicide. “I would have never felt okay to do this before the training.”

100 classes in, Youth Mental Health First Aid is still an invaluable resource for the community.

 – Natalie Andrade


Holiday [Re] Connections!

The holidays are here!  For many the holidays are an opportunity to reconnect with loved ones. Monday’s blog about overcoming social anxiety during the holidays was brought to you by CalMHSA: Each Mind Matters Movement.  Today’s blog is a resource of how parents and relatives can speak with teens and young adults and [re]connect during the holidays. Teens and young adults may be managing a work-life balance or facing the challenges of emerging adulthood. Below are four helpful tips that will bridge the communication gaps and encourage the creation of safe mental and emotional spaces for teens and young adults.

  1. Don’t shine an interrogation light.

Keep the conversation as casual as possible. This helps to secure your child’s comfort in the conversation – and yours. The less perceived pressure there is to divulge personal thoughts and feelings, the more comfort present. The more comfort there is, the greater the potential for more vulnerability and more insight on what their lives are actually like outside of the household.

Key: Let them take lead the conversation’s direction and duration! You might just be surprised.

  1. Listen without judgement. Empathize appropriately.

One of the top reasons your child may not share their experiences with other adults at home is because they aren’t sure their events/thoughts will be received without judgement (or worse, punishment). Sometimes your role as their protector has to be put to different use. So, rather than grimace at what their he-said she-said tale is revealing, engage in the conversation with responses that show active listening and affectionate understanding.

Key: If advice is needed, keep it short.

  1. Listen to and validate their feelings.

Sometimes, we hear things that cause feelings of personal offense, or personal responsibility. Remember, though, that you have an opportunity to create a foundation of safety for the child in your life. If the focus is removed from how they are feeling, to how you are reacting, then they might feel less comfortable being vulnerable with you!

  1. Be just as open as you want them to be.

Sometimes it takes a little bit of personal vulnerability to help someone else open up. This is a tricky step for some caring adults. On the one hand, you don’t want to overwhelm your child with too many adult-worries, but on the other hand you do not want to treat them with extremely gentle kid-gloves. Still, you should be willing to be vulnerable and share your joys and pains in an age-appropriate way. This serves as a model of trust for all parties of the conversation!

Ultimately, the goal is to build so much trust, comfort, and merriness into this holiday season so that the New Year may be a strong and supportive start for all friends and family! (Click here to find great tips on how to start conversation of any topic.)

Written by Chenece Blackshear, ODE Intern

The Office of Diversity and Equity is committed to offer prevention and early intervention programs to San Mateo County families.

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).


Assistant Principal from Abbott Middle School Praises Youth Mental Health First Aid

Assistant Principal, Elizabeth Gray, from Abbott Middle School experiences a crucial moment with a student, a moment that most school staff are not yet prepared to face unless they’ve taken a Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) training. When a middle school student expressed thoughts of suicide in her notebook, Elizabeth sprang into action and used the skills learned in YMHFA to ask the difficult yet important question, “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” After asking the question twice, Elizabeth was able to get this young person immediate help. Since taking the training, Elizabeth has expressed the importance of YMHFA, saying that teachers are really the first responder’s to a student and can notice slight changes like mood and behaviors in a student.

See what Elizabeth about how the training has helped her:

1 in 5 young people experience a mental health challenge in their lifetime. Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) is an 8-hour public education training program designed for any adult or student peer working with or assisting young people, ages 12-24. In 2013, San Mateo County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services, Office of Diversity and Equity, partnered with the County Office of Education to begin offering this training to all schools throughout the county. Classroom teachers, school site administrators, school office personnel, coaches, bus drivers, after school providers, parents, teacher’s aides, school health aides, yard duty staff, crossing guards, peers and other school personnel are strongly encouraged to become Youth Mental Health First Aiders.

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


« Older Entries