Dr. Mary Ann Dewan

With the start of a New Year, it is important to reflect on the challenges of the past year and the new possibilities ahead. The COVID-19 pandemic elevated the need for mental health and wellness services and support for youth across the state and in Santa Clara County.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of people having thoughts of suicide and experiencing depression has nearly doubled as compared to the years before the pandemic.  Addressing the complex social-emotional, mental health and wellness needs of students is fundamental to their success in life. Children exposed to trauma or chronic stress early in life without proper interventions or support can lead to lifelong learning and mental health challenges. 

As parents or guardians, we can take steps to reduce the stigma around mental health and empower our children to speak up when they need help and support.  Timely access to mental health care and wellness programs is key and schools have an important role in increasing that access. Youth are 21 times more likely to receive access to the mental health services they want and need when mental health and wellness services are provided at school, according to a recent study by the American Psychological Association

The increased need for mental health services following a year of isolation is one reason that  schools across Santa Clara County opened or expanded wellness centers on school campuses.  The Mental Health Student Service Act (MHSSA) Grant has provided financial support to the Santa Clara County Office of Education (SCCOE). In collaboration with school districts, this has allowed the SCCOE to open 11 new wellness centers on school campuses this semester. The intent of this effort is to increase mental health prevention, early intervention and direct service opportunities for students and families.

 With the combined support at home and in schools, students have the opportunity to develop their social and emotional wellness, establish healthy relationships, and strengthen their overall health and learning. Adults in children’s lives can help children manage feelings in many ways. They can encourage their child to practice self-care, normalize emotions and feelings, and model managing their own feelings in front of their child.

To access social and emotional and behavior supports, contact the Inclusion Collaborative to learn about training opportunities for parents and educators by visiting  www.inclusioncollaborative.org.

The Santa Clara County Office of Education (SCCOE) in Partnership with Santa Clara County Behavioral Health Services Department also provides School Districts with Suicide Prevention and Crisis Intervention support. The Suicide and Crisis 24/7 hotline is 1(855) 278-4204 or Text RENEW to 741741  

The National Alliance on Mental Illness has valuable resources, including how to know the warning signs and risk factors of suicide, being prepared for a crisis and navigating a mental health crisis.

Together, we can ensure our children are healthy and ready for success in school and in life.