Mental Wellness Center Helps Teens Support Teens
Wellness Connection Council
Designed For and Led By High Schoolers
By Tyler Hayden
It’s never been easy to be a teenager, but these days it’s particularly tough. One in five youth, the CDC says, struggles with mental illness. And while schools do what they can, there is always a need for more support.
Into that breach has stepped Santa Barbara’s Mental Wellness Center and a relatively new club created for high schoolers and led by high schoolers called the Wellness Connection Council. Started in 2018 and reconfigured during the pandemic, the council meets one weekend a month at the nonprofit’s downtown headquarters to, as facilitator Sophie Pelletier put it, “educate empower and engage” teens on the topic of mental health so they can become ambassadors of “education, prevention, and advocacy” on their respective campuses.
The group first decides what topics they want to focus on, whether it’s social media consumption, the scourge of fentanyl, anxiety around athletics, college admission pressure, and so forth. They watch documentaries, hear from experts, and participate in activities, after which they hold open discussions. “We learn together,” said fellow facilitator Gabriel Cardenas. “We don’t tell them what to do. They get enough of that from their parents.”
If the pandemic offered any silver lining, it was to thrust mental health into the spotlight, Pelletier explained. “People realized a lot of people are suffering, and they recognized they themselves could suffer.”
Participation is free with registration. Last year, more than 50 teens took part. “To see students who want to be here on a Sunday is amazing,” said Pelletier. “They’re rock stars.”
617 Garden St.; (805) 884-8440; wccsb.org