Just in time for Teen Mental Health Month, on August 1st, the San Mateo County Behavioral Health Youth Committee piloted its first-ever Youth Mental Wellness Pathways Workshop guided by the vision of creating clear, culturally sensitive and empathy-based access – “pathways” – to mental and behavioral health care for youth and their families no matter the point-of-entry. With the ultimate goal of creating a simple yet effective navigational tool with heart, the pilot was designed for participants to:
- Share their lived experiences (both positive and negative — i.e. barriers encountered) in navigating the system;
- Exchange insight on how to effectively navigate the process;
- Gather early data for an MVP pathways map that: (1) defines what questions to ask; (2) empowers with rights and sets expectations; (3) directs where to go; and (4) connects with supportive tips and networks.
In small groups, parents, caregivers, educators, youth and mental health and behavioral health practitioners shared a unique mental wellness experience; identifying the feelings, thoughts, and actions that occurred before, during, and after attempting to access care. They mapped their pathway, then as a group, participants discussed their responses and then assessed the trends on their pathway. This was followed by a gallery tour, where each participant looked at each group’s pathway to better understand the thoughts, feelings, and obstacles that arise when attempting to access behavioral health care, as well as to define needs at each stage.
Through this event, participants were able to share their lived experiences to understand the realities associated with seeking behavioral health care. Whether that be fear, linguistic barriers, or the difference between therapy and youth therapy, this event created a space for identifying these real-life experiences from San Mateo County staff and families – and, importantly, co-created practical steps to support youth and families in moments of greatest need.
For future sessions, the Youth Committee plans to meet different communities within San Mateo County to host similar sessions among more youth, parent and caregivers, and educators of diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds. BHRS Office of Diversity would like to thank BHC Commissioner and Youth Committee Chair Frieda Edgette, BHC Commissioner, Commission on Disabilities Commissioner and County of Education Board Trustee Chelsea Bonini, BHRS Deputy Director of Youth and Family Services Ziomara Ochoa, Commission on Disabilities Commissioner and San Mateo Union School District Board Trustee Ligia Andrade Zuniga, volunteer William Elting, Consumer & Family Affairs TITLE Yolanda Ramirez and Parent Project Program Coordinator II Nicoletta Kelleher for their outstanding efforts in piloting this event. In addition, the Office of Diversity and Equity expresses deep gratitude to all the attendants that shared their lived experience and made this event possible.
If you are interested in learning more, getting involved or bringing the pathways workshop to your organization, please contact Nicoletta Kelleher at firstname.lastname@example.org