There is a mental health crisis among California’s youth. Studies show up to one in five students in the United States has a serious mental health need, yet in California too few of those affected receive the help they need.
To address this issue, Blue Shield of California is launching BlueSky, a multi-year effort in collaboration with the California Department of Education and nonprofit organizations such as Wellness Together, National Alliance on Mental Illness, and DoSomething.org.
The goal of the initiative is to enhance awareness, advocacy, and access to mental health resources for California’s middle- and high school students. The Blue Shield of California BlueSky initiative will provide additional mental health clinicians in schools, train teachers on the signs of mental health issues, and empower students with in-person and online mental health support resources.
“At Blue Shield of California, we know the essential role mental and emotional health play in a person’s overall well-being, starting in childhood,” said Paul Markovich, president and CEO of Blue Shield of California. “No one is immune to adversity, yet each person’s future depends on his or her ability to cope through life’s challenges. Our goal through Blue Shield of California BlueSky is to empower and support students by helping them develop resilience and emotional well-being today, so they have a lifetime of good health in front of them.”
The BlueSky initiative addresses mental health for middle- and high school students in California through a combination of school-level services and statewide initiatives.
One-on-one therapy for students
Through the work of nonprofit Wellness Together, Blue Shield of California BlueSky will bring additional mental health clinicians into schools to enhance access to care. This service is launching initially in 19 middle- and high schools, with a student body of more than 20,000 students in Oakland Unified and San Leandro Unified school districts in Alameda County, and Sweetwater Union, Oceanside Unified and Juvenile Court & Community Schools in San Diego County.
Mental health training for educators
Working with the California Department of Education, Blue Shield of California’s BlueSky program will fund Youth Mental Health First Aid training for thousands of public-school teachers and staff. By providing school personnel with the resources they need to support student mental health, the program will reach tens of thousands of students in classrooms across the state.
Creating student-led peer groups
In collaboration with National Alliance on Mental Illness, Blue Shield of California BlueSky is supporting the creation and expansion of student-led clubs in high schools throughout the state. NAMI on Campus High School Clubs raise mental health awareness and reduce stigma in schools through peer led activities, education and advocacy.
Online resources for all students
In 2020, DoSomething.org, the largest organization for young people and social change, will join Blue Shield of California BlueSky to further equip and empower students with the tools they need to promote positive and effective mental health within their schools, communities and, ultimately, themselves.
The Blue Shield of California BlueSky initiative will be evaluated by a research team from the University of California, San Francisco’s Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies to determine the impact on student- and school-level outcomes.
“Educators are on the front lines in recognizing adverse childhood experiences as a public health crisis. Research shows that positive adult relationships, peer-to-peer support, and mental health services are critical to helping young people heal. This collaboration is truly about the intersection of education and health,” said Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, surgeon general of California.
For more information on Blue Shield of California’s BlueSky initiative, and for links to resources around student mental health, visit BlueShieldca.com/BlueSky.