Category Archives: Mental Health Awareness Month

Healthy Minds, Choices, Families & Community – Physical, Mental, Spiritual, Cultural: “10 Years of Combatting Trauma!”

Sponsored by the East Palo Alto Behavioral Health Advisory Group (EPABHAG) and convened by One East Palo Alto the 10th Annual Family Awareness Night (FAN) represents our own local celebration of May 2017 as National Mental Health Awareness Month, an official, nation-wide recognition period for which San Mateo County Behavioral Health & Recovery Services (BHRS) leads.

The evening planned for FAN 2017 in EPA will begin with a very special, delicious dinner. Afterwards, it will feature a discussion of mental health as a very important component of good quality of life. Although the discussion will initially touch on general mental health considerations, its central focus will be to provide community members with wellness tools that promote self-empowerment to overcome trauma and strengthen resilience. FAN’s activities are designed to achieve these objectives: to celebrate collaborative successes that have been accomplished over the last 10 years; highlight outreach and interventions in the community that are contributing to success of efforts to raise awareness of mental health issues; expose stigma and define trauma as they relate to our community; build individual and organizational capacity to provide effective services for those impacted by trauma and identify at least one wellness tool to practice after recognizing a need for self-care. Finally, the evening’s discussion will address access to quality behavioral health services and resources in EPA that promote wellness and highlight what is currently being done by EPABHAG members in partnership with BHRS to eliminate longstanding disparities.

Often times, people of color and of other marginalized backgrounds do not seek help from mental health services because of the stigma that is pervasive in their community. It is important to host events like this for families to enter a non-judgemental space to learn about stigma, so that they will feel comfortable reaching out for help to receive appropriate services.

Thursday, May 18, 2017, 5:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
East Palo Alto Academy/Multipurpose Room
1050 Myrtle Street, East Palo Alto, CA 94303

This article was adapted from a letter sent by Faye C. McNair-Knox, Ph.D. and Executive Director of One East Palo Alto.

Navigating the Tides of Adolescence

On May 11th, StarVista partnered with Junipero Serra High School to host a panel on Navigating the Tides of Adolescence. This event, the fourth of its kind, was directed towards what parents can do to support their teens through the stresses and pressures of high school and young adulthood.

The panel included:

  • Julie Lythcott-Haims, author of the highly acclaimed book, “How to Raise an Adult“ and former Associate Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education and Dean of Freshmen and Undergraduate Advising at Stanford University
  • Kathleen Blanchard, Gunn High School parent
  • Steven Sust, Stanford University School of Medicine and San Mateo County Psychiatrist
  • Narges Zohoury Dillon, M.A., LMFT, Program Director for StarVista’s Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention Center, and Child and Adolescent Hotline and Prevention Program.
  • Rachel Myrow, KQED Correspondent (Moderator)

Each panelist brought unique expertise to the table. Julie and Kathleen in particular spoke from the heart as parents whose children attended/are attending high performing, high pressure schools in the area. Julie spoke poignantly about how her son’s spirit and energy were sapped from the five-hour homework marathons he endured nightly as a 15-year-old. Kathleen shared that her son JP, a bright and well-liked boy, died by suicide at the Caltrain tracks in Palo Alto in 2009. As Julie and Kathleen shared their parenting mistakes and breakthroughs, the audience of fellow parents laughed and cried along, relating so well to the many challenges of raising a teenager.

As a mother myself, and as a mentor to a teenage girl, I wanted to know what I could do to better support youth in my life.  Here is what I took away from the discussion:

  • See teenagers as whole people. So often we get into the habit of only talking to teens about school. High schoolers are inundated, from parents and strangers alike, with questions about their grades, their SAT study plans, college applications, what major they’ll choose, etc. It sends the message that their only worth is their academic performance. Instead, we should give them space to tell us about their interests and their passions. Steven talked about how all youth have values that motivate their decision-making and their goals. We need to take time to understand what those values are so we can better support them. One size does not fit all.
  • Get to know your kids’ friends (and their parents). Youth reach an age when their friends become their primary confidantes. We will learn more about our kids and become a trusted adult in their lives if we know who their friends are. We can do that by doing the above: seeing them and treating them as whole people. Also, kids may feel more comfortable talking to an adult other than their parent because that adult may be less judgmental or emotional. Build a community with other parents at your kids’ school so that we can all support each other.
  • Let them know you are willing to talk about the hard stuff. Narges gave the audience some helpful phrases to start the conversation, using this panel discussion as a launching point: “I attended a talk tonight on teen mental health and suicide. What do you think about those topics?” Leaving it open-ended gives us a chance to hear what the youth believes, what they’ve heard, and what they’ve experienced. She also suggested following up with “If something like this was happening to you or one of your friends, you can come to me. I’m here.” So often youth don’t reach out for fear that the caring adults in their lives can’t handle these conversations. Let them know explicitly that you CAN.
  • Model self-care and help-seeking behaviors. As parents we want to seem invincible to our children because we are their protectors. But children benefit from seeing the way we deal with setbacks and emotional challenges. Of course we need to maintain boundaries and not spill all the inner workings of our mind, but when we are going through a hard time we can show them that it’s okay to pause to take care of ourselves, and to reach out, whether to a loved one or a professional, to get support. We should acknowledge that pain is a normal part of life, that it can be worked through, and most importantly, that it is temporary.

At the beginning of the panel, I felt overwhelmed and pained thinking of all the challenges and pressures that teenagers are facing today. But by the end I felt better equipped to be a supportive adult. I also felt pride and a sense of community, knowing that so many other adults were invested in this topic, and willing to learn more about teen mental health. It will take all of us to break the stigma and support our youth the way they deserve to be supported.

Written by: Mai Le

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

GDG 2015@County-53

Did you know that half of us will have a mental health challenge in our lifetime? Help us raise awareness of the importance of good mental health for everyone. We need to speak up and help remove the shame and stigma, so that more people can be comfortable seeking the help they need. Mental illnesses are common and treatable, and help is available.

Join us on Tuesday, May 2nd at our kick-off eventBe The One – Reach Out to Support Your Peers” at the College of San Mateo from 10am – 1:30 pm.

May 2: Celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental Health Resource and Art Fair

Please join us for the Mental Health Awareness month kickoff event on May 2, from 10:00am – 1:30pm presented by the County of San Mateo Health System’s Behavioral Health and Recovery Services Division and the College of San Mateo. The event will feature food and beverages, raffle prizes (including Amazon gift cards!), a “Be the One” photo booth, art activities, information about local mental health resources, and the opportunity to listen to and share powerful stories. The event is free and open to the public.

Please register for free public event at:

College of San Mateo – Cafeteria, Building 10
1700 W. Hillsdale Boulevard
Tuesday, May 2nd
10:00am – 1:30pm

See a list of all events during Mental Health Awareness Month.  Questions? Sylvia Tang –

May 2: Be the One – Reach Out to Support Your Peers

Join us on May 2nd as we kick-off Mental Health Awareness Month at the College of San Mateo from 10 am to 1:30 pm.  Learn how to support you and your peers mental wellness and help stop the stigma that often gets in the way of people getting help.  Visit for more information.

Print flyer.

May 2: Mental Health Resource and Art Fair

1 in 4 people have a mental health condition, but less than half are getting the help they need.  Join us to help stop the stigma during May Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn how to support a friend or family members’ mental wellness at the Mental Health Resource and Art Fair at College of San Mateo.  Register for the event or visit health month for more info.




2017 Mental Health Month – Call for Narratives/Testimonials

Behavioral Health and Recovery Services is seeking short narratives/testimonies (200-350 words) related to mental health for 2017 Mental Health Awareness Month. Narratives/testimonies may be published in Wellness Matters (BHRS newsletter), posted online in the BHRS blog and in other San Mateo County communications and social media channels.

We seek a range of submissions reflecting diverse perspectives and personal experiences of mental illness, wellness and recovery and/or the impact that stigma has had on one’s life, from a consumer or family member perspective.

How to Submit:

  • Submission deadline: April 18th, 2017
  • Submissions and/or questions can be emailed to
  • All submissions will be published with first name only (or if complete anonymity is preferred please state so in your submission).
  • All submissions must be accompanied by a signed release giving us your permission to publish your story. The form can be found at:
  • All submissions are subject to review/editing/publication by BHRS.
  • Longer narratives (up to 500 words) may be submitted for consideration, however, are subject to editing for length.

Honesty helps break down mental health barriers

Each Mind Matters – Stigma Video from Each Mind Matters on Vimeo.

When we speak honestly and openly about mental health, stigma loses it’s power. Honesty breaks down barriers and removes obstacles so people may seek help sooner. Each Mind Matters is California’s Mental Health Movement dedicated to creating open and honest conversations about mental health that break down the barriers of stigma. See San Mateo County’s Be The One stigma reduction campaign.

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