Community Services & PROGRAMS

“The power of community to create health is far greater than any physician, clinic or hospital.” ~ Dr. Mark Hyman

When we talk about community, the whole is indeed far greater than the sum of its parts. Take for example, what happens when a teenager starts showing symptoms of a mental illness. Do friends make fun or do they urge the teenager to get help? Does the school’s staff notice and begin a conversation with the family? Does the family take a stand for wellness and seek out treatment? Do doctors listen and are therapeutic resources available? Does a place exist where information and interpersonal support can be found to manage mental health? The best treatment occurs when all of these elements fall into place.

The Mental Wellness Center promotes community wellness by providing education, support groups, and essential resources to raise mental health awareness in the community. Together, we can stomp out stigma.  Together, we can focus on broadening the awareness that mental illnesses are common and treatable.  Together, we acknowledge that when people seek help, it is a sign of strength.

Please click on the activities listed below to learn more about what we offer for community members. You may also visit our Calendar.

Community Wellness Program

When “I” is replaced by “We”, even illness becomes wellness.

Mental wellness is an issue that affects us all; therefore, education and support should be available to the whole community. The Community Wellness Program welcomes everyone to participate in courses to learn how to get well and stay well.

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. (contact to verify)
  • Education Family Discussion Group - features new topics weekly.
  • Family Support Group – weekly information and support for family caregivers of adult children.
  • 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!
  • Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) is an evidence-based, self-directed prevention class that teaches tools for staying well.
  • Hearing Voices: A peer support group based firmly on an ethos of self-help, mutual respect and empathy. Facilitated by Catherine Birtalan.

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. Please join us by calling our Family Advocate, Ramona Winner, at 805-884-8440 or emailing
  • 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 – opportunities for busy professionals to learn more about hot topics in mental health.

View the Wellness Program Calendar and the Events Page for up-to-date activities of the Community Wellness Program or other Community Events offered by the Mental Wellness Center.

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Community Education

I encourage everybody to spend a few moments educating themselves and learning more about the signs and symptoms of mental illness, by doing so you could help save a life and it could even be your own. ~ Dr. Neal Houston, Life Therapy Group, Pennsylvania

One in four individuals experiences mental illness at some point in their lives. Many factors affect mental health, including trauma, genetics and other biological variables, as well as physical health conditions, medication, and non-prescribed drugs and alcohol. 

Words like “stigma” and “isolate” tend to divide people. If we are all to grow stronger and healthier, and if our community is to become a place where individuals can access help and resources, we must unite with a common understanding of mental health conditions. The Mental Wellness Center meets this challenge with Mental Health Education.

  • Mental Health First Aid: a one-day class for all interested in learning about the signs of mental illness. 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 also available. For the next scheduled class, please click on the Calendar. To sign up for a class or learn more, call 805-884-8440 or email
  • Established Family Support Group and Support for Parents of Teens & Adolscents help family caregivers with interpersonal support and information when a family member has signs of mental illness or distress. The established Family Support Group is for parents and caregivers of adult children. Support for Parents of Teens (SPOT) is our newest group, focusing on parents and caregivers whose children are experiencing depression or anxiety. See our Calendar.
  • Mental Health Matters is a unique course taught to students in primary and secondary schools, to introduce mental health topics in a way that makes sense and contributes to their understanding of health. Please read more about our fantastic Mental Health Matters initiative.
  • NAMI and the Mental Wellness Center host Fourth Thursday Speaker Presentations every month.  Coffee and dessert is followed by a dynamic speaker on a mental health topic. With the Southern Santa Barbara County Chapter (SSBCO) National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), we offer presentations on topics of local interest related to mental health on the fourth Thursday of each month. Coffee and dessert begin at 6:30 p.m. and a speaker presentation follows at 7:00 p.m.  n addition, other SSBCO NAMI presentations are scheduled throughout the year. Please click on the Calendar for current offerings.
  • Other Community and Focused-Educational Presentations are offered by the Mental Wellness Center staff and NAMI volunteers, to provide community presentations and learning opportunities on specific topics related to mental health. Our Lunch and Learns extend service providers’ knowledge about mental health topics, including motivational interviewing and incorporating the new diagnostic manual. Typically scheduled around a complimentary lunch provided by the Mental Wellness Center, these are brief presentations by respected professionals in the field. Please click on the Calendar for the Lunch and Learn schedule and contact Natalie Garcia at 805-884-8440, extension 3246 to reserve your attendance.
  • A Speakers’ Bureau, Sharing our Stories is a trained panel available to talk about mental health recovery and related aspects. Civic groups, schools and universities, and others interested in learning how these issues affect peoples’ lives on a personal level may contact us at 805-884-8440 or email
  • Recurring Events, including the Mental Health Arts Festival and the Sunset Beach Walk for Wellness (a community fundraiser) happen annually. These events are a fun way to fight back against stigma and support mental health. Please check out our Community Events.

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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. It also 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 individuals who are living with known or suspected mental health disorders and/or co-occurring substance abuse disorders. The class was created by an experienced family member and 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;

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Care Closet

Care Closet

Community Involvement

  • As a local business owner, learn how you can strengthen and diversify your staffing with help from Employment Services.
  • If you have used clothing donations, consider giving them to the Fellowship Club’s Care Closet. Not only will you be giving a person with limited means the chance to dress well but you will also be supporting employment positions in retail and stocking.
  • If you are interested in having your church or civic organization learn more about mental health, consider hosting our speakers’ bureau, Sharing our Stories, or alternatively, taking Mental Health First Aid as a group. We may even be able to teach at your location instead of at our offices!
  • Take part in our fun events and bring your friends. Two annual events to put on your calendar are the Sunset Beach Walk for Mental Wellness (a community fundraiser) and the Mental Health Arts Festival (an art exhibit featuring the works of local artists living with mental illness).

To find out more about these options on how you can be involved in advancing mental health in our community, please contact us by telephone at 805-884-8440 or by email at

To learn more about our services focused on specific audiences, please visit Youth, Families, or Adults.

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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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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 mental health?

Mental health is how a person’s thoughts, feelings, and actions affect progress through life and relationships with others. See more in the Glossary.