Youth Services & Programs

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” 
~ E.E. Cummings

Learn more. Feel better. Mental health is science. Let’s start with the basics.

Too often, young people’s lives are derailed by mental illnesses. Life gets hard at a time when the future should shine brightest. About one-third of students with mental health issues drop out of school. Without an education or experience to put on a resume, landing a job can be hard.

Sometimes, mental symptoms go away after a while; sometimes, they don’t. It’s important to get help in either case. Learning about mental health is the first step to wellness. The Mental Wellness Center can help, starting with before illness and all the way through an illness to recovery.  

If you’re a teenager or young adult experiencing symptoms, we can help you and your family find medical and professional care, as well as teach you important skills on how to manage your mental health. You can recover your potential for living your best life, and your family can get the information and interpersonal support they need so that you can all work together. Remember, regardless of the circumstances, recovery of your well being is not something you or your family needs to tackle alone.

NEW: Students in Santa Barbara are leading the way on campuses to end stigma surrounding mental illness. Check out the Wellness Connection Club at San Marcos High School and see how this program is expanding!

Mental Health Matters

Mental Health Matters teaches basic facts about mental health to middle school and high school students. Course instructors talk about stigma and how it affects our perceptions of mental illness and taking care of ourselves. You’re likely to see us teaching Mental Health Matters either in your sixth-grade class or your ninth-grade health classes.

The California Standards for Health Education include mental, emotional and social health. We believe there is not enough info in our textbooks to learn about these important topics. Mental Health Matters fills the gap. Important basics about mental health get addressed and you learn how you and the important people in your life might be affected by mental health issues.

The course is fun! Teachers use a range of techniques to keep students engaged. The teachers work as a team and this helps keep the process dynamic and students involved.

Goals and Outcomes

  • Learn the facts, including symptoms and warning signs, of specific mental health disorders
  • Understand that mental health disorders are treatable
  • Understand that mental health disorders can happen to anyone – even children and adolescents
  • Reduce stigma and ignorance that surround mental health disorders
  • Practice wellness skills

Major Mental Health Disorders Discussed in the Course

  • Thought disorders like schizophrenia
  • Mood disorders, including clinical depression and bipolar disorders
  • Anxiety disorders such as panic disorder, phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Eating disorders, including anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating
  • Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder

Research Supporting Mental Health Matters
In addition to the previously mentioned concern regarding the absence of mental, emotional and social health issues from K-12 school curricula, research suggests that negative attitudes toward individuals with mental illness are developed as early as kindergarten and are relatively stable into adolescence (Weiss, 1986; Weiss, 1994). Research supports the hypothesis that there exists among school age youth a high level of stigma that is often associated with exclusion of peers who are thought to have mental illness (Hennessy, Swords, and Heary, 2008). Research further suggests that by fifth grade, students are able to conceptualize mental illness in a more sophisticated manner (Ventieri, Clark, and Hay, 2011). This last finding suggests that middle school is a developmentally opportune time to provide psycho-education and to decrease stigma.

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Keeping Connected

This group brings together teens (14-18yrs) to learn emotion management in a fun, safe place. Come discuss life, work on communication and social skills and enjoy time with your peers! The group is held on Wednesdays from 3:30pm -5pm at the Mental Wellness Center. It is free and facilitated by Isis Casteñeda . Drop-ins are welcome. Se habla español. For more information join us day-of, call or text Isis at 805-448-0920

Parent Support Groups

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 rwinner@mentalwellnesscenter.org.

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.

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Resources for Young People offered by the Mental Wellness Center

The Mental Wellness Center offers an online portal for information that you can share with your family about mental health and illness. Learn through the online Education Portal.

If you want your family to know more about mental health, so that they can help you or somebody else in the family better, try the following:

  • Have your family contact a Family Advocate at the Mental Wellness Center or call us by phone: 805-884-8440.
  • Have your parents or other adults check our section of the website for Family Services.

For additional resources, please click on Resources.

If you have ideas about mental health or wellness activities you might find interesting, please contact Natalie Garcia at 805-884-8440, extension 3246.

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 recovery?

Recovery is what happens when a person focuses on becoming the best person he or she is capable of being.  Recovery is unique and changes from person to person, depending on individual strengths, interests, and vulnerabilities. See more in the Glossary.