Youth Mental Health

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Mental Health Supports for Vulnerable Youth

Youth Forward is working to increase access to culturally-grounded mental health supports for youth of color, LGBTQ youth and other vulnerable youth through advocating for the expansion of near peer and peer-to-peer approaches. We believe that we need to expand mental health beyond a traditional medical model to include prevention, healing circles, arts and music, and near peer or peer-to-peer support.

During the 2022-2023 school year, youth leaders, with support from Youth Forward, won a commitment from the Sac City Board of Education to ensure that all middle schools and high schools in the district will have safe spaces on campus for LGTBQ students (such as GSA clubs). We believe that these spaces should be an essential part of the school environment as they play an important role in supporting the mental health and wellness of LGBTQ students.

For the 2023-2024 school year, our team of youth organizers will be working to support young people at four high schools in Sacramento City Unified. We are also partnering with the Sacramento County Office of Education (SCOE) to support the development of the Schools as Centers of Wellness initiative, an effort through which SCOE is placing mental health clinicians at schools in Sacramento County.

During the pandemic in 2020, in partnership with the Center at Sierra Health, we coordinated a series of virtual training sessions in youth mental health for youth development workers in the Sacramento region. Some of these training sessions are currently posted on our YouTube channel.

Our Work

In late 2019, Youth Forward began a process of convening a group of primarily Black youth and young adults to develop an understanding of how Black youth and youth of color support their own mental wellness and that of their peers, and the role that schools play in supporting (or undermining) mental wellness.

Through listening to young people, we came to understand the limitations of the current “medical model” approach, the importance of culture and safe spaces, and how young people can support one another.

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