Local families address new mental health report by Stanford Center for Youth Mental Health & Wellbeing


A new report from the Stanford Center for Youth Mental Health & Wellbeing revealed insights from local families on perceptions of mental health resources and interventions for youth who may be struggling with depression and other mental health issues.

The report, “Understanding the Mental Health Needs and Concerns of Youth and Their Parents: An Exploratory Investigation,” is the result of a focus group exercise conducted among six groups of teens and adults in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties (three teen groups and three adult groups, with 62 participants total), with a special focus on Asian-American families. The goal of the focus groups’ discussions was to identify barriers to achieving mental health support for adolescents in the community and gain an understanding of the role which cultural components can play to help inform the types of resources and interventions that teens and parents in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties want and/or value.

According to some Asian-American parents and teens who participated, the stigma surrounding mental health acts as a cultural barrier that prohibits mental health issues from being discussed within families and the greater cultural communities. According to the report, some Asian-American teenagers feel their parents either “don’t believe in” mental illness and treat it as an excuse for underachieving or have the expectation that teens can make themselves better.

One parent participant summarized the gap of understanding: “I came from China… I think we [parents] struggle because we use our experience to judge [our children], and we just run into conflict. The value system and everything — family, kids — it’s totally different.”

Additional findings include teens’ descriptions of the pressure they feel to achieve academic and personal success while growing up in an area filled with tech company executives and Stanford professors.

When it comes to identifying resources in the community, teens and parents alike identified gaps in awareness of local mental health resources and voiced concerns about stigma for seeking mental health support, particularly in some school settings. According to one student, “friends have told me they’d rather not talk to those counselors at school because if someone sees you walking into that office, they’re going to automatically assume the worst, and reputation is everything.”

Parents also observed that stigma discourages their children from seeking help. They are concerned about long-term confidentiality of mental health support, even wondering whether seeking treatment may impact their kids’ future job prospects in some way.

“You don’t want to broadcast a lot of things because if they have any mental issues when they are younger and employers later find out about it, that may make them ineligible for certain jobs,” stated a parent. “So it’s a particularly unforgiving society in terms of someone ever having had mental health issues and then being able to get back into the mainstream.”

Overall, these findings underscore the tremendous need for expanding reliable, youth-friendly mental health services in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. The Stanford Center for Youth Mental Health & Wellbeing is also spearheading efforts to open a network of youth mental health centers that will offer confidential, low-cost physical and mental health care for young people ages 12 to 25 in the Bay Area, following the model of a national initiative in Australia called “headspace.” Australia’s existing headspace centers offer stand-alone, integrated care sites with age-appropriate care for teenagers and young adults who are facing early life challenges, including relationship breakups, bullying, sexual orientation, depression, anxiety and other mild-to-moderate health conditions.

The center’s goal in conducting focus group exercises like these are to help ensure programs being implemented locally, such as the headspace model, are relevant and meaningful.

Discover more: Breaking down stigma: 5 things to know about our Adolescent Mental Wellness Conference


2 Responses to “Local families address new mental health report by Stanford Center for Youth Mental Health & Wellbeing”

  1. carla bentley

    The statistics on the incidence of child & adolescent mental health are telling. When you work in schools (as I do), you pray that resources for all of these children and their families come quickly. To seek to understand how to make services culturally relevant ensures money wont be wasted and that services will result in use and benefit everyone.

  2. sunilassaptik

    Mental fitness is as important as physical fitness, but usually we do not focus on our mental health . I visited many sites but the information about teen’s mental health that you have mentioned in the site is very helpful and easy to do. I must say your ideas to improve mental health are very unique and I think everyone who is suffering from mental sickness, should try these ideas for better and healthy life.


Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)