Sunday, November 1, 2009

Adolescent Mental Health Resources

A Former Gunn Parent Shares Adolescent Mental Health Resources Available to Teens and Families of Teens
Laurie Stein

As a parent of two Gunn graduates, the news of another suicide shook me terribly. Since the first two suicides of Paly students several years ago, I have had a heightened awareness of this problem. But, the spate of deaths this year is intolerable. I am writing to you to offer information on resources you may not be familiar with in hope that some of this information can help our teens.

I did not know any of the students who have died and can only imagine what brought on such deep pain that they felt death was the only solution. But, having worked with parents of children with mental illness for several years I’ve learn that many adolescents who battle depression and other such illnesses feel ashamed and fearful of how they will be perceived by others. One big factor in this is the stigma that is attached to mental illness. Despite the research that shows that mental illness is a biologically based brain disease, most people still perceive the victim as the root of their own illness.

Although I do know that Palo Alto has increased their counseling and educational outreach on mental illness, I don’t know what effort has been put into fighting the stigma associated with these illnesses. Recently, Glenn Close and her sister Jesse launched a campaign to fight the stigma of mental illness. They have created a website and campaign that not only informs the public but also gives those who are ill resources. As most residents of our community are frequent users of the internet, making these resources available could help all. Please take a moment to look at the website at At the top of the homepage is a link to “Find Help”. Under the high school and college section are two powerful websites, and Both organizations appear to be college based, the information there is relevant to our high school students. Many of the YouTube clips are powerful and appropriate for this age. Gaining access to this information can be one more tool to give our kids in their fight to stay healthy.

I have been involved for several years in a national organization helping parents of children with mental illness. This organization is the Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation at They also sponsor a website for teens at Through CABF, free brochures on mood disorders are available for the schools. If you would like copies of this brochure or other information please contact Nanci Schiman at

When I spoke online to another parent volunteer with this organization about the crisis in our community, she told me of a similar situation that her community of Barrington, Illinois went through. Their response was to create a website to reach out to the parents and teens of their community. Please look at this website: It is quite comprehensive. And, more importantly, it was extremely effective. With all the talent that is in our community, creating a similar website is another avenue for helping our kids here.

It is my sincere hope that we as adults can begin to break down the stigma of mental illness and create an environment where our kids can talk about their feelings openly and without fear of being judged. Only when they can realize that some of their friends share their fears and feelings will they be able to see other possible avenues of action.

Laurie Stein

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