March 2nd was recently declared #WorldTeenMentalHealthDay. The day is dedicated to raising greater awareness of mental health issues among teens, as well as provide education about removing stigmas surrounding preventative mental health.
According to the American Psychological Association, Gen Z (the generation born between 1997 and 2012) has the direst mental health outlook of any generation. However, teens are dedicated to making a difference. According to YPulse, 64 percent of Gen Z say they want to achieve a healthier lifestyle for overall happiness, including a stronger self-care routine. Also, 94 percent consider mental health very important to their well-being. Ultimately, raising awareness about mental health and the importance of self-care can help improve an entire generation’s mental wellness. (Source)
Canal Alliance is committed to a holistic approach to case management for our clients, including with our students and families in the University Prep (UP!) program. UP! is a college readiness and success program designed to help first-generation Latino students graduate from college. In the 2019-20 school year, more than 120 students participate in the UP! after school and college programs at Canal Alliance which includes mental wellness education thanks to the support of our partners at UCSF/ZSFGH.
Dr. Anabel Plasencia is currently completing her postdoctoral fellowship as part of the Child Trauma Research Program, CTRP at UCSF/ZSFGH funded by Tipping Point Community. At Canal Alliance, the primary focus of Dr. Plasencia’s work is to engage UP! students via individual therapy as well as psychoeducational groups.
As part of the UP! program, the social-emotional learning groups engage students in the exploration of who they are, and how they see themselves as part of their environment. The objective is to promote mental and physical self-awareness; reinforcing strengths and fostering emotional self-regulation.
Students meet in grade-level groups for six hour-long sessions. This work is prioritized and built into the UP! afterschool program schedule and is supported by the education team.
Dr. Plasencia recently reflected on the changes that she has seen in students’ behavior and outlook after they have spent several sessions with her. “Seeing students in a setting that is not a classroom puts them in a different mind-set. We’re talking about concepts like empathy and personal agency and emotional intelligence and you can see their self-confidence improve and they are kinder to each other. We get to see real magic happen when they open up in a safe space where adults show them that they are trusted to make good decisions.”
Her office, complete with comfortable couches, floor pillows, sensory toys, and snacks is a favorite among students and families alike and allows her to address important subjects such as the connection between physical wellness, nutrition, environment, and mental wellness.
In addition to her work with the UP! students, Dr. Plasencia is currently co-leading a community group, Lazos Familiares, in partnership with UCSF, Bahia Vista elementary school, and Canal Alliance. Lazos Familiares has been developed to assist families to process emotional issues related to separation and reunification due to immigration.
Dr. Plasencia’s previous positions include: The Marin County Health and Human Services Department, San Rafael High School, and Santa Rosa Junior College. Dr. Plasencia is bilingual in English and Spanish, and her clinical work is rooted in a multicultural foundation that she continues to enhance as she works with her clients. Her dissertation was entitled: “La Unión Hace la Fuerza: TOGETHER WE CAN, From High School to College to Power – Latinas and the decision to go to college.”