You’re invited: 2018 Adolescent Mental Wellness Conference

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Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford and the Stanford Department of Psychiatry’s Center for Youth Mental Health and Wellbeing will host the second Adolescent Mental Wellness Conference on April 27 and 28, 2018. This year’s event is centered on the theme of “Overcoming Cultural Barriers to Access” and will bring together a diverse audience of youth, families, policymakers, educators and clinicians to help address child and adolescent mental health issues among multicultural communities throughout the Bay Area. Conference registration is available online.

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I recently spoke with Shashank V. Joshi, MD, director of training in child and adolescent psychiatry and director of school mental health services at Packard Children’s, about what we can expect from this year’s event. We covered topics such as the impact of California’s legalization of marijuana on teens, ways to discuss the popular Netflix series 13 Reasons Why with your teen, and local resources that offer mental health support.

1. Why is it important to bring people together to discuss child and adolescent mental health issues, particularly within our Bay Area community?”

Unfortunately, within our society there is a stigma around the topic of mental illness among teens, parents, and the broader community alike, and this creates a barrier that can prevent young people from getting the help they need.

The best way for us to decrease this stigma is by talking openly about mental health issues.

The conference is not only a place for that open dialogue, but our hope is that it will empower everyone from lawmakers to educators to young people to speak up about mental health. Parents can be advocates of this at home by approaching the topic of mental health with their teens one conversation at a time. The more we talk about mental health in our homes, the easier it becomes for teenagers to be attuned to it as they go about their lives at school and with their friends.

2. The theme of this year’s conference is “Overcoming Cultural Barriers to Access.” Why focus on this topic?

The stigma surrounding mental health can be even more difficult to break through because of certain cultural barriers, particularly among immigrant families. The Stanford Center for Youth Mental Health and Wellbeing released a report on perceptions of mental health resources and interventions for youth with a special focus on Asian American families. The report showed that in some cases, teenagers reported their parents either “don’t believe in” mental illness and treat it as an excuse for underachieving or expect teens to make themselves better. It is important to recognize that the experiences our local youth are having in high school may differ greatly from their parents, particularly if their parents were raised in another part of the world. At the conference, sessions including “My Parents Don’t Get It — Bridging Cultural and Generational Divides” will address the impact of cultural expectations about success on mental health and offer advice for approaching conversations about mental health with your teens.

Sessions addressing the support needs of minority youth populations will also include: “Understanding the Experience of Non-Binary Youth in 2018,” “Supporting the Mental Health of College Students of Color,” and “Supporting Immigrant Families: Trauma-Informed Approaches.”

3. For parents considering whether they may benefit from attending, what advice can you offer when it comes to discerning whether a teen’s behavior is a normal part of adolescence or something more serious?

Ultimately, mood changes in teens are a normal part of adolescence, as are intermittent problems sleeping and occasional “bad days.” But for some teens, these behaviors can become more severe, pervasive, and prolonged and could be caused by something more serious, like depression.

If you notice that your teen has been feeling down for at least two weeks, is having trouble concentrating, is more irritable than usual, is fatigued, has changes in appetite, or no longer enjoys or cares about things she or he once did, your teen may be depressed. If these symptoms don’t go away and interfere with your teen’s ability to function normally, it is important to get help.

You can start by reaching out to your teen’s guidance counselor at school or your primary care provider who is equipped to provide support and referrals to appropriate additional care as needed. I encourage parents to attend our session “When to Worry: Typical Teen Behavior vs. Signs of Mental Distress” on Friday, April 27, where I will be joined by my colleagues Neville Golden, MD, and Denise Clark Pope, PhD, from the Stanford Graduate School of Education to further discuss this topic.

4. What other topics will be covered at the conference?

Two full days of informative panels and discussions will cover timely and relevant topics impacting local youth. For instance, we’ll address the potential mental health impacts of California’s recent legalization of marijuana in a panel called “Intersection of Mental Health and Marijuana Legalization.” Chances are your teen is hearing about the legalization of marijuana in the media and among peers. As a parent, the best thing you can do is keep the conversation going by looking for everyday opportunities to discuss it or by including the topic of marijuana in conversations you may already be having about teen drinking. You can also ask your school district and school board what they are doing to combat the potential dangers of drug use among teens.

We will also have a session dedicated to “Media and Youth Suicide — Best Practices for Reporting and Storytelling” in light of the popular Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, which depicts several disturbing themes in a way that is not in accordance with the national recommendations for the depiction of suicide.

If you are concerned that teens in your community are watching 13 Reasons Why, the most important thing you can do is to watch it as well and discuss it with your teen to help him or her safely process the difficult topics and images presented.

Now is a good time to have these conversations with your teen, as a second season of the show is set to be released soon. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has created tips to help guide your conversations about the series, which are available online here:

Download the American Foundation Suicide Prevention Tips

For more information about the conference’s events, check out the full program online.

5. If I am unable to attend the conference, where can I turn to learn more about the mental health support resources available within the Bay Area?

A child’s best mental health outcome depends not on one provider but on a cohesive system of care with many touch points, resources and compassionate representatives throughout the community. There are many avenues to get support — from school resources, community partnerships and clinical care. Recommended resources include:

  • Sources of Strength, an evidence-supported peer-to-peer wellness and suicide-prevention program between students and mentoring adults in local schools.
  • School counselors and on-campus wellness centers, which can be accessed on a drop-in basis during school hours.
  • Project Safety Net, which provides a hub of information and resources for anyone in the Bay Area needing mental health support.
  • The Health Care Alliance for Response to Adolescent Depression (HEARD Alliance) includes a vetted and searchable directory of mental health care professionals in the area, a prevention toolkit, and a list of local community resources.
  • The Stanford Center for Youth Mental Health and Wellbeing, established in 2015, includes early mental health support and stigma-reduction programs, educational and community partnerships, and a mental health and technology program.
  • Your child’s pediatrician is also an excellent first point of contact when inquiring about support for your child’s mental health. Once a diagnosis is provided, a treatment plan will be developed that is tailored to the unique needs of your child and family.
  • If a young person’s mental health condition is life-threatening, the pediatric psychiatry team in our Stanford Health Care/Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford emergency department immediately evaluates the patient, provides psychoeducation, and triages the patient to the appropriate care. Local 24-hour suicide crisis lines are also available: Santa Clara County, (650) 494-8420 or (408) 279-3312; San Mateo County, (650) 579-0350.
  • Mental health assessment and treatment for children and teens is also available at a variety of clinics and care centers throughout the Bay Area, such as the Children’s Health Council, Sutter Health, Bay Area Children’s Association, and the ASPIRE program at El Camino Hospital. Many county and community agencies accept Medi-Cal. Patients who don’t have insurance can seek treatment at free health clinic locations throughout the Bay Area. Additional resources are listed on the HEARD website.
  • Child psychiatry research programs are also a point of access for mental health care. To participate in researched-based care, please sign up for Stanford’s Brain and Behavior Research Registry.

For more advice from Dr. Joshi on dealing with mental health issues teens may be facing, read his column in the recent issue of Bay Area Parent’s Teen Focus magazine.

Discover more about the Adolescent Mental Wellness Conference.

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One Response to “You’re invited: 2018 Adolescent Mental Wellness Conference”

  1. Leland Maxwell

    Can I get more information from you about the topic of teen mental health and marijuana?

    Reply

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