Mental illness is a family affair. Members of families in which mental illness has occurred are more strongly disposed to contract the disease than the rest of the population. Some families function in such a way as to trigger mental illness. Family awareness, early identification and prevention are often the first steps to effective treatments. Relatives can play a key role in the identification and treatment of a teen with a mental illness, and help and support can be provided to the other family members.
"We aim to bring wraparound services to the community," said Lorena Huerta of Familias Unidas. "We meet clients in their environment - by way of churches, schools, immigrant groups - and we have the capacity to support and strengthen the families (dealing with youth mental health problems) by way of helping them with their issues, whether it's a job, housing, or other issues."
According to Alexis Adorador of Familias Unidas, "We have served in the Richmond area for 30 years now. We are proud to bring to East County our cultural competence to engage otherwise anxious families, to engage in a safe way, regardless of immigration status."
Funding for this collaboration comes from Proposition 63, known as the Mental Health Services Act, passed in 2004.
Contra Costa County Mental Health Program Supervisor Cesar Court said that much of the funds are devoted to the training of mental health practitioners to discern culturally sensitive issues.
"Children have been put in special education in the past because they had difficulty learning the language," Court said. "There is a great need for mental health services in the region. Usually the youth act out in school, resort to drugs or alcohol, or manifest their issues in abuse or battering between the youth. Our goal is to help identify their problems. We offer wraparound services to the uninsured - those falling through the cracks."
If your child is displaying sudden, prolonged or severe depression, aggression, withdrawal, changes in appetite and sleeping habit, a marked drop in academic performance or suicidal thoughts, seek help.
For more information about the Families Forward program and services, call 634-4445. Those who wish to get involved in the Families Forward Advisory Committee are invited to contact the center, located at 1192 Central Blvd. in Brentwood. Office hours are Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.