Family Services & programs

“We are stronger together than we are alone.”
~Walter Payton

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Since our beginning in 1947, the Mental Wellness Center has recognized the impact and importance of families in mental health. In fact, we are so committed to the idea that families can be the best advocates and most comprehensive caregivers that the Southern Santa Barbara County Chapter (SSBCO) of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) chose to partner with us back in the eighties.The alliance of the center’s Family Advocates* with the dedicated group of SSBCO NAMI volunteers continues and today, is a strong force in keeping families well.

Are you concerned about someone in your family? Do you have a sense that their mood or behavior has changed and that they are less happy or focused than they have been? Have mental health symptoms become severe enough in your loved one that you’ve sought professional help and received a diagnosis?  Are you living with the reality of a serious and long-term mental illness and supporting your child or family member?

At whatever point along the spectrum of mental health you find yourself and your family, the most important thing to know is that you are not alone. Sharing the burden of confusion and distress that swirls around mental health with somebody who understands what you are experiencing will lighten it. You will also find the evidence-based and current information available at the Mental Wellness Center helpful. With the field of mental health changing so rapidly, we are committed to staying abreast of best practices. We know that treatment is effective, and that the right support and care can change even a difficult prognosis.

The Family Advocate is a trained family member familiar with issues faced by families impacted by mental health disorders. The Family Advocate can assist families who are trying to understand and deal with the impact of serious mental health disorders on their family. The advocate provides assistance in understanding and navigating the local public and private mental health systems and how to access various clinical and support services available in our community and can also offer one-on-one support in times of crisis. Services are available in English or Spanish by appointment during regular business hours. Drop-ins are welcome on a first come, first serve basis. We also have after hours appointments available Thursday evenings from 5:00 - 6:00 pm. To make an appointment, contact Ramona Winner, at 805-884-8440 (ext) 3206 or

*program offered in conjunction with NAMI SSBCO

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The Southern Santa Barbara County Chapter (SSBCO) of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) teaches Family to Family, an intensive twelve-week course for family members to learn about living with somebody who has a serious mental illness. As part of the Community Wellness Program, the NAMI group also provides Fourth Thursday Speaker Presentations on a monthly basis. Once each month, a local authority will address a topic of interest pertaining to our community’s mental health. NAMI also offers Focused Educational Presentations as an ongoing part of the Community Wellness Program, as well as the long-established Family Support Group for parents and caregivers of adult children living with serious mental illness. NAMI SSBCO is hosted by and receives support from the MWC. For more information about our NAMI group and what they do, visit NAMI. For you or your family members to discuss issues and learn about local resources and navigating systems, we offer Family Advocates to speak with you over the telephone or meet with you and family members at the Mental Wellness Center. Our Family Advocates reflect upon their knowledge of local resources and experiences with mental health to help and support you.

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Family to Family Course

This is a free 12 week course to help families of people living with mental health disorders learn about serious mental health disorders – what they are and how they’re diagnosed and treated. Hosted by NAMI SSBCO, this course helps families better understand how their ill relative experiences their illness, how to best support their relative’s recovery process and how to better cope with the impact of the mental health disorder on the entire family. The course is recommended for families of persons who are living with known or suspected mental health disorders with or without co-occurring substance abuse disorders. The class was created by an experienced family member mental health professional and is taught by specially trained and certified teachers who are also experienced family members. This nationally recognized program has been included in the SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the national Department of Health and Human Services) Registry of Evidence Based Practices. For more information, contact the Family Advocate Office:  805-884-8440 (ext) 3206;

*Next session: February 7-April 24th 2018

Register now by emailing the above contact.

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SPOT: A peer support group for parents and caregivers of teens (ages 12-26) struggling with mental health or substance abuse from crisis to aftercare. Parents can connect with others, find resources, and learn to manage children’s needs without sacrificing their own.

Tuesdays: For moms of teens and adolescents. 12-1:15pm at 35Teen Center - 1235 Chapala St.

Please join us by calling our Family Advocate, Ramona Winner, at 805-884-8440 or emailing

Spanish Speaking Support Group: This support group connects on self-care and wellness topics. Facilitated by Martin Castro.

Tuesdays; 5:30-7pm at the Mental Wellness Center - 617 Garden St. (contact to verify) 

Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP): An evidence-based, self-directed prevention class that teaches tools for staying well.

Tuesdays; 6:00-7:30pm

Depression & Bipolar Support Group: A peer-run support group where people with mood disorders find comfort and direction in a confidential and supportive setting. Walk-ins welcome!

Thursdays: 6:00-7:30pm at the Mental Wellness Center - 617 Garden St.

Family Support Group: A group for family members and caregivers of loved ones living with mental illness, providing an opportunity to share with one another in a safe and supportive environment.

Thursdays: 6:00-7:30pm at the Mental Wellness Center - 617 Garden St.

     *Not available the 4th Thursday of every month.

Hearing Voices: A peer support group based firmly on an ethos of self-help, mutual respect and empathy.

Mondays: 6:00-7:00pm at the Mental Wellness Center - 617 Garden St.

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Mental Health First Aid

Mental Health First Aid is an 8-hour course that teaches you how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. It also teaches an action plan to use in a psychiatric emergency.  The course fee is $45, which includes the course book and certification for three years upon passing.  Scholarships are available.  Help make Mental Health First Aid as common as CPR!

Why Does It Matter?

  • Sometimes people don’t know how to ask for help.

  • There is a suicide every 12.8 minutes. Let’s change this!

  • We can all be more aware & more informed.

Upcoming Dates: TBD

To sign up for a class or learn more, call 805-884-8440 or email

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Community Wellness Program

The Community Wellness Program is a set of educational courses, interpersonal support groups, and activities related to mental health and overall wellness. Most activities are scheduled in the early evenings to accommodate busy day-time schedules. They are at our main building at 617 Garden Street. The activities are free of charge, and drop-ins are accepted. Please click on the Calendar for current offerings.

The Community Wellness Program is open to Santa Barbara County residents. We offer a range of free and/or low-cost activities incorporating support, awareness, and understanding in a safe space of healing. The classes and activities listed below do not require pre-registration, and drop-ins are welcome. Come join us!

Activities for community audiences:

  • Spanish Family Support Group – conducted in Spanish and meeting once per week for people living with serious mental illness and adult family members.

  • Education Family Discussion Group - features new topics weekly.

  • Family Support Group – weekly information and support for family caregivers of adult children.

Activities for young adults and their families:

  • Support for Parents of Teens (SPOT) – information and support shared by parents of teenagers and young adults with anxiety or depression. This group meets for lunch off site at the Twelve35 Teen Center once per week.

  • Keeping Connected - For youth ages 14-18 to learn to better manage emotions and reactions in a fun, safe space. Facilitated by Isis Casteñeda.

Activities for Service Providers:

  • Lunch and Learns – brief opportunities for busy professionals to learn more about hot topics in mental health.

View our Calendar and the Events Page for up-to-date activities of the Community Wellness Program.

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Spanish Support

If you are a parent or other relative seeking help for a loved one, please contact Ramona Winner, Family Advocate, at 805-884-8440, extension 3206.

If you or someone you know needs immediate help, please call 9-1-1. For emerging concerns, please call the 24 Hour Toll-Free Crisis Response Access Line 888-868-1649.

What is a support group?

Support groups are regularly scheduled meetings for people who are dealing with similar, difficult issues. The emphasis is on sharing the wisdom learned from lived experiences and connecting with one another in a safe, nonjudgmental space.  The group facilitator or leader may also have lived experience with the issues for which the group was formed. Examples of support groups are family support groups or support for a particular health condition such as bipolar disorder or diabetes. See more in the Glossary.