NAMI California’s annual Youth Symposium on Tuesday, April 13 and Wednesday, April 14 included discussions on youth mental health support, awareness, education, and advocacy. The 2-day virtual event featured student and youth presenters as well as leaders working to empower and support youth mental health, with sessions on youth-led mental health programs, suicide prevention, engaging school leadership, promoting mental health on social media, and more.
Senator Anthony Portantino
Sen. Portantino represents California’s 25th State Senate District, which stretches along the 210 Freeway from Sunland/Tujunga to Upland. He proudly represents the Rose Bowl, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Griffith Park, Warner Brothers, Disney, Caltech and the Claremont Colleges.
Supporting public education, mental health, and sensible gun control have been priorities for Senator Portantino during his time in office. His accomplishments include increasing funding for special education and the K-12 Local Control Funding Formula. He has authored legislation that created California’s umbilical cord blood collection program, pushed back school start time for middle and high schools, banned the open carry of handguns on Main Street California, raised the purchase age of firearms to 21, and placed the suicide hotline number on student identification cards. In addition, his efforts have created a science fellowship in the State Capitol and established a unique partnership between the University of California and Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Senator Portantino currently serves as the Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Prior to his years as a representative, he spent many years working in film and television production, served on the California Film Commission, and spent nearly eight years on the La Cañada Flintridge City Council, with two terms as Mayor. In 2019, he was awarded the prestigious Ellis Island Award at a ceremony in the historic island’s great hall. Senator Portantino grew up in New Jersey, where he attended public schools and graduated from Albright College in Reading, Pennsylvania, where he met his future wife, Ellen, a longtime business executive at Warner Brothers and Disney. They have two daughters.
Youth Suicide Prevention
The Hero In All of Us: Finding Your Role in Suicide Prevention
Stan Collins, Suicide Prevention Specialist, Directing Change Program & Film Contest
Stan has worked in the suicide prevention field for two decades since losing a friend to suicide in high school, utilizing his experience to support and develop strategies to create system level change around suicide prevention. Stan is part of the California Department of Education’s Student Mental Health Policy Workgroup that developed the “Model Policy for Youth Suicide Prevention” in response to AB2246. Part of his work currently includes providing trainings to school districts across the state to assist in implementing AB2246/1767 policies and procedures. He is the co-founder of the Directing Change Program and Film Contest.
Student Wellness Toolkits
Strategies to balance your mental wellness with daily tips and tools.
Britt Turpack, NAMI Westside LA
Britt is a mental health advocate and motivational speaker based in Los Angeles. She is a 500-hour certified yoga instructor and is properly trained in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) from Brown University. As an advocate for mental health and motivational speaker, she incorporates mindfulness-based exercises to inspire and assist others into making their mental health a priority and bring more balance to their lives. Britt also helps individuals discover their authentic selves, lower levels of stress, and FEEL better overall by working on mind-body-spirit alignment. As a representative of NAMI West Los Angeles, Britt has become a Peer-to-Peer class teacher and presenter for both Ending the Silence and In Our Own Voice. Britt’s main goal is to be a shining light for others and a spark of inspiration. In her downtime, you can often find Britt on a mountain trail or at the beach, during sunset, chasing a GOD MOMENT.
Schools as Wellness Centers
An overview of the recently released MHSOAC Student Mental Health report along with a report out on locally led listening sessions
Mara Madrigal-Weiss, Executive Director at San Diego County Office of Education
Mara Madrigal-Weiss is the Executive Director of Student Wellness and School Culture for the San Diego County Office of Education. Her experience includes working with school communities as a Family Case Manager, Protective Services Worker and Family Resource Center Director. Mara received her M.A. in Human Behavior from National University; a M.Ed in School Counseling and a M.Ed in Educational Leadership from Point Loma Nazarene University. Mara has been dedicated to promoting student mental health and wellness for over 19 years. She is a past president of the International Bullying Prevention Association (IBPA) the only international association dedicated to eradicating bullying worldwide. Mara is a member of the California Department of Education’s Student Mental Health Policy Workgroup. At present Mara serves as the designee of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction as a Commissioner on the Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission.
Bringing Mental Health to Schools
Developing Community-School Partnerships for Youth: NAMI On Campus High School and Ending the Silence (ETS)
Crystal Widado, Glendora High School’s NCHS “NAMI Healthy Minds” Club President
Crystal Widado (she/her) is currently a sophomore at Glendora High School and has been a part of her NAMI on Campus club for the past two years. This year as the president of “NAMI Healthy Minds” (the name of her chapter), she understands the struggles of putting together weekly meetings in the middle of a pandemic. Despite the difficulties, she is incredibly proud of her club for putting together weekly informative meetings on topics surrounding mental health and providing a safe space for students to engage in meaningful discussions. With the help of her local NAMI affiliate and other clubs on campus, she has also been able to collaborate with her community to learn more about the intersectionalities of mental health justice. Crystal truly believes the club has been an important form of stability and an educational tool for students at her school. After the pandemic is over, she has ambitious plans to further normalize the conversation around mental health while educating herself and her peers about mental illness. Outside of NCHS, Crystal spends her time advocating for intersectional mental health justice as a writing director of a youth mental health non-profit and helps run her local affiliate’s social media team. Hoping to bring her work in journalism and passion for mental health advocacy together, she hopes to use her public speaking skills from her speech and debate club to focus on the intersectionalities between mental health and the criminal justice system. In her spare time, Crystal runs a sticker shop to raise money for several charities and enjoys film-making, reading, and drinking coffee!
Sabrina Young, ETS Presenter, NAMI Sacramento
Sabrina Young was diagnosed with generalized anxiety and panic disorder at the age of 10, which was life-changing and completely turned her world and her family’s world upside down. She started going to therapy to learn coping mechanisms to help her day-to-day life. Sabrina feels that therapy and medicine don’t receive enough discussion and that’s why she has become an Ending the Silence speaker, to talk about and normalize the conversation around mental health disorders. She is proud to work alongside NAMI and help make that change.
Evanne Torrecillas, Youth Programs Manager, NAMI Sacramento
Community-School Partnerships for Youth
Kym Barber, Youth Programs Coordinator, Prevention Programs, Stanislaus County Office of Education
Chris Roup, Executive Director of NAMI Fresno
In early 2014, Christina joined the local affiliate of NAMI. Through her own lived experiences with mental health challenges, she realized the unknown value of the resources and work of NAMI. NAMI Fresno provides education, support and advocacy for all people affected by mental illness. This resource is provided to the community at no cost and delivered from a lived experience perspective. Christina’s efforts are focused in building partnerships and collaborating with agencies within the mental health community. She also assists with CIT mental health training and education support to law enforcement agencies, the criminal justice system, local school districts to teachers, administrators and students, and our faith communities. These activities raise awareness for mental health and reduce stigma of mental illness. She currently serves as a board member for Central Valley Children’s Services Network, NAMI California, and California CIT Association. She is an active member of the Maternal Wellness Coalitions for Fresno, Madera and Kings counties, and Fresno County Suicide Prevention Collaborative. Christina also chairs the CTE Advisory Committee for FUSD, and co-chairs the Health & Human Services Career Pathway subcommittee. Christina also serves as an appointed commissioner for the Fresno County Juvenile Justice Commission.
Student Mental Health Overview
The State of Student Mental Health
allcove Youth Advisory Committee (YAG):
Emily W., BASIS Independent Silicon Valley, 11th grade
Emily W., Gunn High School, 12th grade
Isabelle L. De Anza College, 2nd year
Jeremy P., Palo Alto High School, 11th grade
Ria R., Henry M. Gunn High School, 11th grade
Almah G., Notre Dame San Jose, 11th grade
Samskruthi M., Notre Dame High School San Jose, 12th grade
The allcove Youth Advisory Group’s (YAG) goal is to ensure that youth voice and experience is included in the development and services of the allcove centers. allcove is a project presented in partnership with Santa Clara County Behavioral Health Services and Stanford University’s Center for Youth Mental Health and Wellbeing aimed at providing mental health support to youth ages 12-25 years old. The YAG is comprised of 24 young people between the ages of 16-25, who represent diversity in race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, lived experience, ability, and socioeconomic status. YAG members are passionate about affecting change and connecting with other youth to increase access to mental health care in the Bay Area. Their commitment to youth mental health access and focus on youth and community representation make them the ideal group to develop youth-led community-wide outreach efforts.
Mental Health Vision Boards
Interactive workshop to set intentions for wellness. With these intentions, participants will have a chance to create their very own physical or virtual vision board to capture strategies for promoting wellness.
Psypher LA began as a student organization at UCLA in 2017 has evolved into a nonprofit organization that strives to reach high school and college students throughout Los Angeles County. They have hosted more than 60 workshops, serving more than 1,300 youth in our efforts to create a standard for wellness education that can be introduced to students nationwide. Psypher blends community-based research and emerging technologies to develop youth-centered wellness programs that embrace the expressive arts.
The Power of Youth Voice
Yammilette (Yami) Rodriguez, Youth Leadership Institute
Yammilette “Yami” Rodriguez, originally from Redwood City, California, moved to Dinuba as a young person. She graduated with an Associate’s Business degree from Reedley College, a Bachelors in Business Administration, Marketing from CSU, Fresno and has her Masters Degree in Leadership and Organizational Studies from Fresno Pacific University. Yami has been with Youth Leadership Institute (YLI) since 2009, and is Senior Director in the Central Valley. YLI has been in Fresno since 2003 and Yami recently launched a YLI office in Merced County to expand the youth programming in the North Valley. Programming includes youth-led, health-related and neighborhood change campaigns in Fresno County.
Voices of Our Presenters
We asked presenters for our Youth Symposium 2021, “What would you say is the biggest challenge we face working to improve student mental health?” Here are their answers.