Community-wide Education and Awareness
We strongly believe that the more families know about the youth mental health crisis, the better decisions they can make. Just like the anti-drug and anti-smoking campaigns of years past, we are going to need a huge societal shift, and we want to start it right here in the South Bay and Long Beach.
We kicked off our community-wide education and awareness campaign in October 2018 when we hosted our first major community event focused on youth mental health. You can learn more about that event and the activities that followed below.
Jean Twenge Discusses Screen Time and Mental Health
For our first major public youth mental health-related event, we hosted an evening with nationally-renowned author and psychology professor Dr. Jean Twenge in October 2018, in partnership with Torrance Unified School District and South Bay Families Connected, where she shared her groundbreaking research on screen time and mental health with local families.
Before the presentation, we hosted a Special Reception for community leaders and those who have played an integral role in our work over the past year. It was truly gratifying to hear Dr. Twenge - who we have quoted in countless conversations - confirm that we are headed in the right direction. She then delivered an engaging presentation, including eye-opening data from her research on "iGen" and practical tips to counter the effects of screens on teens, which were in line with the services we are currently developing.
Some of the key takeaways from Dr. Twenge's speech included the fact that teens need 9-10 hours of sleep a night, but most get 4-5; their body's circadian rhythm makes it hard for them to go to sleep before 11pm, which makes getting up early for school equally difficult; and most importantly, they should avoid blue light from screens at night, including no screens in the bedrooms. Click here to see more photos from the event on Facebook.
In December 2018 and January 2019, we collaborated with partners working at the forefront by participating in Beach Cities Health District's Partnership for Youth Coalition as a member of the Student Mental Health Provider Task Force, speaking to members of Youth Leadership Long Beach about screen time and social media at their class on Human Relations and Social Justice, and moderating a panel on the Youth Suicide Crisis at the California Purchasers Health Care Coalition (CPHCC) 2019 Conference.
Discussing Our New Focus and Empowering Youth
We had two great opportunities to speak about our new youth mental health focus at venues in Torrance and Long Beach in late January and early February 2019. President/CEO Sara Myers was interviewed by Hibah Samad on the February 5 episode of Torrance Citi CABLE's NEWSBREAK LIVE, discussing our research, the community's input, how we plan to help families address screen time and social media addiction, and some helpful resources we can all use now. Click here to watch the interview and learn more.
Sara also spoke with seventh- and eighth-graders about the impact of social media and screen time on their mental health at the Young Women's Empowerment Conference in Long Beach. The third-annual, day-long event hosted by Congressman Alan Lowenthal featured women in a range of careers providing career advice, support and guidance to middle-school girls from various parts of Long Beach. Click here to read the Long Beach Post article about the event, including details about the themes discussed in our Screen Time and Social Media breakout session.
Quote of the Month - February 2019
"If you see somebody that's hurting, don't look away. If you're hurting, try to find that bravery within yourself to go deep and take somebody up in your head with you." - Lady Gaga, 2019 Grammy Awards
Click here to see our tweet thanking Lady Gaga and the Born This Way Foundation for this message and everything they do to do promote youth mental and kindness.
Thinking Outside the Cookie Box
The kind, compassionate and energetic members of Torrance's Girl Scout Troop 3845 visited us in March 2019 to present a basket of donated cookies for our food pantry and a generous check following a successful Girl Scout Cookie season. During their visit, we showed the girls how the Volunteer Center helps local elementary school students their age, and we discussed how the girls can improve their own social-emotional wellness.
First, we introduced them to Food For Kids by taking a tour of the pantry and reading a book from our list of Books about Kindness and Empathy ("Maddie's Fridge" by Lois Brandt). Then, we looked at the different items in the Operation Teddy Bear schoolbag and talked about why we provide them to the first graders, followed by a discussion about our feelings and ways we can be kind. We ended on a very empathetic, comforting note as we hugged teddy bears and practiced taking deep breaths. We are so grateful to have such a generous community of youth, and we love when we can have conversations about kindness, compassion and social-emotional wellness!
Joining Together in Remembrance, Hope & Support
We proudly joined together with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and the South Bay Association of School Psychologists to sponsor and participate in the first ever Out of the Darkness South Bay Campus Walk at Torrance High School in March 2019. More than 200 community members representing 45 teams walked together in remembrance, hope and support of suicide prevention and mental health. The South Bay Campus Walk surpassed its fundraising goal of $10,000 by more than $5,000, which will help fund AFSP's educational programs and services in our community.
The morning began with a resource fair and an opening ceremony featuring remarks by Congressman Ted Lieu, Torrance Unified School District (TUSD) Board Member Betty Lieu, Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi, Dr. Mimi Hoang, a suicide survivor and someone affected by suicide. During a bead ceremony, participants held up the bead necklaces in various colors to indicate their personal reasons for supporting the walk, which also allowed them to connect with others who shared similar experiences. After the one mile walk around Torrance High School, the event closed with remarks by Clear Recovery Center's Howard Baker, Torrance Mayor Pat Furey, and the closing song, "Lean On Me," performed by Dalia Rodriguez.
Volunteer Center staff members were honored to walk with more than 40 other community members on Team Lucas in memory of Lucas Smith, the South High teen who died by suicide last summer. The team was led by his best friend Luke Antaky - one of the participants of our youth input panel - and Team Lucas earned the honor of carrying the banner at the front of the walk for raising the most funds. Click here to see more photos from the Campus Walk on Facebook, and click here to watch Betty Lieu's remarks about what TUSD is doing to help with the rise in anxiety, depression and suicide of our youth.
On May 1, 2019, we launched the Youth Suicide Prevention Task Force, a local effort in support of Project 2025, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s nationwide initiative to reduce the annual rate of suicide in the U.S. 20 percent by 2025. Representatives from 18 organizations serving youth in L.A. County’s Service Planning Area (SPA) 8 helped us kick-off Mental Health Month with the official launch of the Task Force.
Following a successful launch, the cross-sector group of local organizations and agencies has grown impressively, as has the group's progress. The Task Force now consists of 50+ members who meet monthly to share knowledge and best practices; identify resources and gaps; and collaborate on specific, local efforts. Members also recently finalized the purpose, goals and proposed outcomes for the Task Force. Click here for complete details, including a list of the organizations and agencies represented.
Declaring May as Mental Health Month
May 2019 was officially declared as Mental Health Month in a State Resolution by Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi and a Proclamation from Mayor Patrick Furey on behalf of the City of Torrance. Both the State Declaration and the Proclamation also recognized our innovative, new youth mental health focus and the launch of the collaborative Youth Suicide Prevention Task Force, as did a Certificate of Congressional Recognition from Congressman Ted Lieu and a Commendation from Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn. We're so grateful for the support our local officials continue to provide.
Empowering Young Women in Long Beach
President/CEO Sara Myers spoke with sixth and seventh grade girls about the impact of screen time and social media on their mental health in early July 2019. The girls shared their struggles around the pressure to look perfect online, how screen time is affecting their sleep habits, and asked questions about identifying anxiety and depression. The presentation was part of Congressman Lowenthal's Women's Empowerment Series and was presented through Long Beach's city-wide WRAP (Winners Reaching Amazing Potential) Program. At the conclusion of the presentation, Sara received a Certificate of Recognition from Helene Ansel on behalf of Congressman Lowenthal in recognition of her efforts.
L.A. Parent Magazine editor Christina Elston interviewed President/CEO Sara Myers about our new focus on Youth Mental Health, the connection to screen time, and compassionate steps parents can take to begin addressing the issue. Click here to read more about what they discussed, also featured in the September 2019 print issue.
The Impact of Screen Time and Social Media
More than 1,500 students and parents joined the Torrance Unified School District and Torrance Council of PTAs at four screenings of the documentary LIKE during the first week of the 19-20 school year. Similar to how we listened to the community's needs with our new focus, the school district hosted this event after hearing the students' concerns about the stress and anxiety caused by social media. Dr. Kati Krumpe, the school district's Chief Academic Officer, opened the event by dedicating it to the students. She also said, "We hope today's screening starts a conversation about ways we can work together to help our students deal with the many challenges facing them today."
Following the documentary, a four-person panel responded to questions from the audience. Each panel included two high school students, a mental health practitioner, and our President/CEO Sara Myers discussing things such as finding more balance, leading by example, creating buy-in as a family, open communication, and what parents can do from the students' perspective.
Nannette Nolan from the Torrance Council of PTAs said that it was also "a great opportunity to help parents bridge that divide... [and] understand what students are really facing" in the world today. Click here to watch Torrance CitiCable's coverage of the LIKE documentary screening and the panel discussion that followed, including interviews with Sara Myers and parent/Board Member Roseanney Liu.
Increasing Awareness and Helping Local Families
President/CEO Sara Myers presented Connected to Screens, Disconnected from Life: Helping Our Community Refocus on Improving Their Mental Health to members of the Torrance Area Chamber of Commerce in early September 2019 at the inaugural session of the Chamber's Wellness Plus series. The presentation covered details that we've learned through our research on the mental health crisis, including how screen time and social media addiction are contributing to the issue. Sara also shared suggestions to help the attendees address screen usage with their families and improve the mental, social and emotional wellness of the youth in their lives.
"Sara's presentation focusing on crucial issues facing today's families was informative, inspiring and thought-provoking," said Donna Duperon, the Chamber's President and CEO. "From depression to peer pressure and screen time to communication skills, our chamber members were educated on the issues and were able to take away valuable information to help them day-to-day."
We are also available to provide this training presentation to local companies who invest in on-going health and wellness enrichment for their employees. Please contact Liz Reinhardt, Director of Fund Development and Marketing, at email@example.com or (310) 212-5009 for details and pricing.
In addition to our President/CEO Sara Myers, the article also includes interviews with local parent and Torrance Council of PTAs Board Member Nanette Nolan; California State University, Dominguez Hills Professor Nancy Cheever; Mental Health America of Los Angeles' President and CEO Christina Miller; and local student Luke Antaky who participated in our teen focus group and spoke at our recent Heart to Heart Gala. The article also shares details and insights about the great work Torrance Unified School District is doing at the school level, including the recent screening of the documentary "LIKE."