Empowering Our Neighbors to Live the Lives They Want to Live
by Jeni Olsen
Dedicated to the emotional health and wellbeing of all Napa County residents, Mentis provides bilingual, affordable mental health services to people of every age and income level. We hold a vision for mental wellness that goes far beyond transactional service delivery, with a human-centered approach that gives us deep insight into understanding the complex needs of our community. Our expansion into prevention allows us to address the greater need: avoiding mental health crises in the first place.
As many businesses and organizations struggled to find footing during the pandemic, Mentis and Teens Connect saw an opportunity to join forces in order to have a greater impact on community mental health and wellness. What we didn’t know a year ago, at the beginning of the pandemic, was how much our services would be needed. With programs ranging from prevention to treatment, we are committed to ensuring our community’s mental wellness flourishes.
Teens Connect’s youth programs continue to grow and thrive under the prevention division, led by our talented team and our diverse teen council that includes 29 teens from seven Napa County high schools and Napa Valley College. In addition, we’ve expanded programming in the schools, designed programs that connect teens to older adults, and are working on wellness programs for elementary school children.
Teen council members plan and run weekly Teen Happy Hours on Zoom to provide social connection and wellness activities, which are open to anyone in the community. They run Empowerment Clubs on their high school campuses, with the goal of breaking the stigma surrounding mental health and connecting youth to resources and services when needed. They plan and attend community workshops that bring in professionals to share about college preparation, healthy relationships, gender identity, leadership skills and therapeutic coping tools. Council members are engaged in community art projects, volunteer projects and civic engagement, and lead panel discussions about race, equity and justice, mental health, identity, and intersectionality. Our youth listen to the needs of their peers and connect them to resources and crisis services when necessary, as they are all trained in suicide prevention.
All the above programs and tools empower youth to reduce stigma around mental health, promote help-seeking behaviors for themselves and their peers, learn tools for resilience and seek treatment when necessary, which is more important today than ever.
“Being part of Mentis’ Teen Council during the pandemic has allowed me to stay connected to my peers and advocate for teen mental health.” Carla Magaña, senior at Vintage High School
As we listen and learn about the struggles of parenting during the pandemic, we provide parent support groups and webinars with lauded mental health professionals, offering space for caregivers to share about their experiences and concerns, tools to help them help their children manage feelings, and coping strategies to help families through these tough times. We are currently assembling a Parent Advisory Council to gain a better understanding of what type of support parents need and want, facilitate peer connection, and widen our circle of parents for outreach.
Mentis’ Prevention Division recently launched a new multigenerational pilot program, Bridging the Years, which fosters social connection and companionship between teens and older adults, offering weekly one-on-one phone calls to help combat isolation, provide opportunities to discover new perspectives, keep family stories and history alive and give purpose and meaning to both age groups. Our program invigorates and energizes older adults while grounding and centering teenagers, and long-term plans include county-wide expansion and in-person multigenerational activities, when it’s safe again to do so.
In addition to prevention and early intervention services, Mentis provides access to mental health treatment, regardless of one’s ability to pay. Our team of highly skilled clinicians help clients develop skills to cope with difficult events or issues, making life better for our community members and those around them. Through disasters and crises, our flexible, resilient team responds creatively, deploying mental health services where, when, and how they are needed. Mentis listens to the needs of our community, which allows us to support our partners, our colleagues, and especially our residents on the road to mental wellness.
Recently, Mentis’s workshop proposal, Empowering Youth as Advocates of Change in Mental Health Systems, was accepted by National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) and our Executive Director Rob Weiss, Prevention Director Jeni Olsen, and Teen Council President Carla Magaña will be presenting at this year’s NAMICon. Our workshop provides an incredible opportunity to educate and inspire people around the world to design and facilitate programs that empower youth, as well as provide tips for outreach, collaboration, and connection to ensure youth are surrounded by a comprehensive network of support as they create change in their communities.
As we expand support beyond our entire community, we light the path toward strong mental wellness for all, as no one’s mental health exists in a vacuum. When a partner, friend or child is struggling, the impact of that struggle is felt throughout the community. From providing support early, before problems become insurmountable, to clinical treatment for all ages, Mentis is here for you and for those you care for. Because when we share our expertise on how to cope with life’s ups and downs, we empower our neighbors to live the lives they want to live.
For more information about our wide range of services, please visit mentisnapa.org. Our new website includes a robust online Youth Resource Database, with over 40 listings in English and Spanish that serves as a “one stop shop” for our community to find local organizations providing mental health, wellness, and prevention
services for youth.