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It Takes a Village to Heal Mental Illness

Image of helping hands - Mentoring Blog - Western Youth Services (WYS) - the hub for Children's Mental Health in Orange County, California since October 1972, treating children, youth and families facing trauma and stress

The 21st Century Cures Act

As CEO of a children’s mental health services organization, I applaud the fact that President Obama recently signed the 21st Century Cures Act, which includes Rep. Chris Murphy’s “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act” as part of the larger health-care reform package. The bi-partisan legislation was designed to help the estimated more than half of all American adults and children with mental illness that do not have access to treatment. The bill has been called the most significant piece of mental health legislation to pass through our federal government in decades.

The bill is fairly comprehensive for people with serious mental illnesses. This legislation aims to increase access so those with serious mental illness get the care they need. It strengthens laws that make insurance companies establish parity with regard to coverage for mental illnesses, to ensure that those with serious mental illness get the proper care they need. It also encourages funding for programs backed by research and data that measures client benefits.

A Major Step in the Right Direction

Image of girl - counselor - Mentoring Blog - Western Youth Services (WYS) - the hub for Children's Mental Health in Orange County, California since October 1972, treating children, youth and families facing trauma and stress

At Western Youth Services (WYS) we are ahead of the curve. For nearly 45 years, WYS has helped the most vulnerable children, youth and their families overcome mental illness in Orange County, CA. We provide support, exceptional care, expertise…and results. WYS provides access at any of our five community clinics, eight satellite facilities, in homes, schools and other community locations. Often, those in need are able to walk to one of our locations or we go to them. All clients receive the level of treatment needed to fit their needs. Our services are integrated, collaborative, comprehensive and coordinated.

Every child creates a different and unique picture. This is why we offer a comprehensive system of care to meet every need and a full range of services for all age groups. We match the right intervention to the individual need, resulting in stronger families, better education and healthier communities. Our treatment methods are proven effective and include:

  • Parent-Child Interaction Therapy – short-term coaching to manage disruptive behaviors
  • Functional Family Therapy – help that gets families working together
  • Assets-Based Approach – building the skills and resources children need to thrive

We help individuals heal from the hurts of trauma, exposure to violence, abuse, depression, anxiety and other emotional challenges. They gain hope for a future beyond what they could have possibly imagined just a few months earlier.

WYS Goes Further to Heal Mental Illness

Mental illness is a complex picture made up of many, many parts. Success is almost always a result of big picture perspective and detail management. Early outreach and assessment; identification of at-risk children; early intervention; individual therapy, intensive treatment, and continual monitoring create healthy, well adjusted children… who, in turn, grow into health, productive adults.

WYS offers a complete range of services to meet virtually every need. From early intervention to intensive one-on-one therapy, WYS methods are effective, proven and evidence based.

Early intervention changes lives. Our unique approach cuts costs by reducing the need for future, more intensive services. By screening a broad base of the population through entry-level programs, we can identify high-risk individuals and connect them into appropriate care. Early detection and treatment techniques anticipate individual emotional challenges and avert future crises, providing children, parents, teachers and agencies with lifelong skills and resources to succeed. Sometimes, the most important thing is to have one person who believes in them to help them turn a corner.

The Mentoring Effect

(quote and image from the website)

“Mentoring, at its core, guarantees young people that there is someone who cares about them, assures them they are not alone in dealing with day-to-day challenges, and makes them feel like they matter. Research confirms that quality mentoring relationships have powerful positive effects on young people in a variety of personal, academic, and professional situations. Ultimately, mentoring connects a young person to personal growth and development, and social and economic opportunity. Yet one in three young people will grow up without this critical asset.”

Image of mentoring stats from website
Image courtesy of

At WYS, we deeply believe in applying mentoring in our services. We have had great success by building relationships through mentoring and I myself had two teachers who were mentors to me that changed the trajectory of my life. The impact is even bigger for at-risk youth as outlined in the chart below from the website.

Mentoring in Action

Francisco Marroquin, an Outreach & Engagement Specialist at WYS shares…

“I used the concepts of mentorship while working with a client recently who was experiencing low self-esteem and uncertainty. Instead of taking a clinical approach, together we built a rapport and organically worked on his conversation skills. After several sessions, his confidence improved as did his social skills.

Oftentimes, high school and middle school students are uncomfortable in their own skin and simply need a little bit of guidance and assistance. The cool thing about mentoring is that you go into it thinking you’re going to shape someone’s life, and although this is true, we learn more from our mentees. Being a mentor and role model for others is rewarding and an approach I often apply in a professional capacity, but just about anyone can be a mentor… I hope that I sparked the interest for this client to pay it forward and become a mentor.”

The Solution Can Be Simple

Although the passing of the 21st Century Cures Act is an important milestone for progress, it’s taken decades for this to happen. Countless children have carried their trauma into adulthood while we were waiting.

Together we can make a difference, whether you are a parent, grandparent, guardian, teacher, counselor, neighbor or family friend we all have relationships with children. Keep a watchful eye, ask questions, take the time to really listen to the kids in your lives regardless of your role. If they need professional help there are many, many resources available, including us.

Life is complex, it takes a village.

Lorry Leigh Belhumeur, Ph.D.
Chief Executive Officer
Western Youth Services

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