Santa Barbara County launches campaign focused on youth mental health
As mental health month in May approaches, the Santa Barbara County Department of Behavioral Wellness has launched a campaign to address mental health and substance misuse among local youth.
The County teamed up with local youth to launch the “It’s OK not to be OK” campaign.
Suzanne Grimmesey with the Santa Barbara County Dept of Behavioral Wellness said the youth-designed campaign aims to spark dialogue about mental health and direct youth to helpful resources.
“The goal of the campaign is to normalize conversations about mental health among youth, encouraging youth to put their mental health needs first,” Grimmesey said.
Grimmesey said the campaign comes at a crucial time, with the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on youth mental health. According to 2021 CDC Data, 37 percent of high school students reported poor mental health during the Covid-19 pandemic, and 44 percent reported they persistently felt sad or hopeless during the past year.
Grimmesey said on top of the residual effects of the pandemic, there are other events causing stress on local youth.
“We have natural disasters in our community; we had the recent storms; we have climate change,” Grimmesey said. “We have a lot of stressors facing our youth, leaving youth reporting feelings of anxiety, stress and depression.”
This also comes as Fentanyl overdoses are on the rise in Santa Barbara County.
As part of the campaign, local youth came together for an OK Youth Roundtable video series to share their stories and encourage others to seek help when needed.
Elly, one of the youth participants, explains how mental health and substance abuse often go hand in hand.
“I think that substance use makes mental health issues much worse than they already are,” Elly said. “There are other ways you can cope with your mental health such as self-care, going to therapy, doing something that really relaxes you.”
The campaign will continue through Mental Health Month in May.
More information on the “it’s OK to not be OK” campaign is at oksbc.org.
If you’re experiencing a mental health emergency, you can call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, whose number is 988.