The Next Step in Making Mental Health Resources More Accessible
By Tanisha Mehta and Salma Metwally
What is a Wellness Center?
Wellness centers are crucial components of mental health support for people of all ages, especially for adolescents who are navigating a very transformative and confusing time in their lives. They can be a place to find mental health support or simply wind down and find a moment to relax. The Palo Alto Unified School District defines wellness centers as “safe, supportive environments…where [people] can go to discuss a variety of issues from depression, grief, self-esteem, family life, and stress to dating violence, sexual identity, and health needs.” Notice that these issues aren’t limited to mental illness. This is because any individual can suffer from mental health challenges and psychological distress, for which they deserve help and support. The purpose of wellness centers is to support people with a wide array of issues that may benefit from some form of guidance or encouragement. This makes wellness centers more accessible and comfortable.
What makes it a necessity for the youth community?
Typically, accessing traditional mental health services is a real challenge for many, preceded by a long stay on a waitlist and accompanied by a hefty price tag. For kids and teens, especially those living in disadvantaged households,…even more difficult. Yet there is a beacon of hope for these youth. Wellness centers. Wellness centers, particularly dedicated to adolescents, primarily receive outside funding (most often from the government itself). As a result, the services they offer are essentially free. That, on its own, is a massive benefit.
Crystal Calhoun, elder leader at the San José Unified Equity Coalition, left, Viviana Rodriguez, Peer Support Specialist at the Downtown Youth Wellness Center, right
The Downtown Youth Wellness Center
Resources are lacking: Wellness centers are crucial but overlooked
What you can do
You can spread awareness and educate others on wellness centers, so those struggling with their mental health might know where to turn to and where to look for help. Join and get involved in organizations like the San Jose Unified Equity Coalition, a coalition of parents, educators, students, and community members who are currently advocating for the establishment of more wellness centers, so students can access the quality mental health care and support they deserve. Visit and support your local wellness center. Some local centers include Allcove, in Palo Alto, The Q Corner, in San Jose, and of course, your own school’s wellness center. You can talk to your school’s administration or board about increasing funding for student resources. If you are of voting age, you can also vote for politicians who emphasize investing in community mental health resources. Don’t wait for others to facilitate change. Be the change yourself.