During the COVID-19 pandemic, children and young people were isolated due to the closure of schools. For many, the isolation had long-term effects, including increases in reported depression and anxiety.

Supporting Mental and Behavioral Health

In fact, according to the 2023 California Children and Youth Behavioral Health Initiative report, “Youth at the Center: Calls-to-action for a reimagined behavioral health ecosystem from children, youth and families across California,” California has seen the second largest increase in depression and anxiety among youth in the nation, and 65% of California’s young people with depression go without mental health treatment due to lack of access to services.

While much of the region returns to normalcy, nonprofit organizations are working with local young people to address the mental and behavioral health issues that they are experiencing. Local provider and Healthy Children & Families Initiative grantee, Mending Matters, has expanded its services to 40 high schools throughout San Diego County.

“People in Mending Matters are good people and they help you with everyday problems and just help you realize what you need to do as a person to set yourself up for a good future,” said one local high school student about their experience.

Mending Matters gives students the opportunity to speak openly about their experiences in a confidential and safe environment. It’s work is helping students, parents and caregivers, and school officials understand the acuity of mental and behavioral health issues in local middle and high schools.

Youth Supporting Youth

During the past academic year, Mending Matters implemented its Living Is For Everyone (LIFE) program in local middle and high schools. The LIFE program supports a youth-led plan that utilizes schoolwide mental health needs assessments and existing school platforms to share culturally responsive mental health resources that reflect the school’s unique community and its identity, strengths and engagement styles.

Between September and December 2022, LIFE advisors and Mending Matters facilitators shared a voluntary, anonymous, youth-informed, school-wide needs assessment called “We Hear YOUth.” More than 12,000 students in sixth through 12th grades completed the survey. The survey is designed to assess needs, while also building young people’s inner dialogue regarding existing resources in their school, community, and within themselves – all while normalizing conversations about mental health to challenge the stigma that exists around the topic.

At San Diego High School, the assessment shared what areas of life with which students need the most support. The students’ self-reported responses included:

  • 60% seeking support for stress and anxiety
  • 53% seeking support for energy and motivation
  • 50% seeking support for overthinking or racing thoughts

The students who took the needs assessment also received access to virtual mental health awareness resources, such as 24/7 resources like crisis lines, phone apps and peer support statements.

“Mending Matters can definitely add positivity to your campus,” said another student participant.

Real Results

Thanks to Mending Matters’ work, school leaders, parents and caregivers, and students have a better sense of students’ mental and behavioral health needs. It also helps those involved understand not only the degree and need of students’ mental and behavioral health needs, but also shares the community’s strengths. For example, for the nearly 1,200 students at San Diego High School who participated in the needs assessment:

  • 72% reported being good listeners
  • 61% reported being loyal
  • 60% reported being trustworthy

After reviewing the needs assessment, some students have created new clubs centered on their communities’ needs; school librarians have expanded their collections to include books about self-care, mental health support and resources; and students have referred themselves or their peers to campus mental health resources, among other activities.

For local young people, Mending Matters makes a difference.

“It just can change everything,” said a local student about the nonprofit.

Healthy Children & Families Initiative

Launched in the fall of 2021 with our child tax credit outreach project, the Healthy Children & Families Initiative supports the SDF Strategic Plan by advancing community resilience through health equity and increases the quality of life for children and families through expanded access to supportive services, including:

  • Connection to direct financial assistance
  • Equitable access to affordable and high-quality healthcare, including mental and behavioral health services
  • Addressing trauma and increasing access to equity-centered, trauma-informed services for children and families

Learn more about the Healthy Children & Families Initiative.