Summit Focuses on Solutions to Youth Stress & Substance Use
Thursday, May 31, 2018

It’s no secret that teens are under extraordinary amounts of stress.

But what can communities do?

That was the focus of the State of Our Youth’s Health: Student Stress & Substance Use Summit hosted on May 24th by Beach Cities Health District (BCHD) as part of national Mental Health Awareness Month. The event brought together more than 180 guests that included students, school leaders, parents, healthcare providers, law enforcement, businesses and residents of the Beach Cities.

“It’s going to take all of us to address these challenges,” said Tom Bakaly, CEO of Beach Cities Health District in opening remarks. “You’ve been invited here for a reason. You have a role and are part of the solution.”

The highlight of the event was the ten courageous teens who spoke about the stress epidemic in young people. The panel of students also discussed peer pressure and substance use.

The students concurred that they put a lot of pressure on themselves to meet the high expectations set by parents, teachers and social norms. They also shared innovative ways that school environments can be more flexible around due dates, exams and reaching out to students who are having challenges.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five kids in the U.S. shows signs or symptoms of a mental health disorder, including depression, anxiety and substance abuse.

The Honorable Mary Bono, a former U.S. Congresswoman and long-time mental health advocate, delivered a keynote address that encouraged the community to immediately act upon any student’s request for help. She recommended implementing a “way out” program that allows students to work with teachers or counselors around mental health, including having a 12-step program available in every school.

Additional presentations were made by Pat Escalante, superintendent of Hermosa Beach City School District; Dr. Michael Matthews, superintendent of Manhattan Beach Unified School District and Dr. Nikki Wesley, executive director of student services at Redondo Beach Unified School District. City of Manhattan Beach Mayor Amy Howorth also presented and emphasized the importance of breaking down the barriers and stigmas associated with mental health.

At the conclusion, the community discussed actionable short-and long-term solutions, which will be compiled by BCHD and presented to school leadership in the coming weeks.  

“We want to take all of these ideas and work with our partners to support students,” said Ali Steward, BCHD director of youth services. “This is only the beginning of this conversation.”

The summit was presented in partnership with the L.A. County Department of Mental Health, South Bay Families Connected and local school districts.

Check out the event’s photo gallery on Facebook.