May is Mental Health Awareness Month

May is Mental Health Awareness Month! Mental Health Awareness Month is a time for people to share what life with a mental illness feels like for them and also for people to consider taking a mental health screening online if they think they are showing signs or symptoms of a mental illness. Additionally, this month gives people space to speak about mental health issues and make mental health awareness a larger priority among ourselves, among our families, and within our communities.

"Mental Health" word cloud courtesy of for mental health awareness
“Mental Health” word cloud courtesy of

Promoting Mental Health Awareness for Children, Teens and Young Adults

Mental health problems don’t only affect adults. Children, teens, and young adults can be affected by mental health problems, too. states that, “three out of four people with mental health problems showed signs before they were 24 years old,” making mental health awareness important for everyone. Mental health impacts everyone’s lives, no matter where you come from or where you live.

However, in many underserved communities, mental health services and providers are lacking. In communities such as Watts, Inglewood, and Boyle Heights – all places where we serve our student Dreamers and their families – mental health services are either non-existent or are incredibly difficult to locate. If there is a mental health center nearby, the wait lists are long and many people have trouble accessing the services in a timely manner. According to recent surveys that “I Have a Dream” Foundation – Los Angeles (IHADLA) conducted, our Dreamers experience traumatic life events (loss of a family member, divorce, etc.) at a rate two to three times higher than the national average. Thus, many of our students suffer from mental health issues that are not being adequately addressed due to their communities’ lack of mental health services.

IHADLA’s Mental Health Impact

“I Have a Dream” Foundation – Los Angeles’ goal is to help our student Dreamers receive the mental health services that many individuals in their communities need by providing intervention, preventative measures, resources, and support on a ground level. Last July, IHADLA brought Janell Lewis, Master of Social Work (MSW), to our team. Janell is our program manager and oversees day-to-day operations of all programs. As an MSW, Janell brings fantastic perspective, experience, and insight about mental health and mental health awareness to IHADLA. Janell explains how our organization is incorporating stronger notions of mental health into our programming:

Beyond the academic scope, IHADLA seeks to service the wholeness of a child through social and emotional development education, one-on-one interventions, and community referral resource support. IHADLA leverages the partnerships formed with The Maple Counseling Center (TMCC) and the University of Southern California (USC) MSW department to deliver direct mental health support, identify effective coping strategies, and foster resilience amongst Dreamers and their respective families. The Maple Center interns focus on psychotherapy to address the many life stressors that affect Dreamers, such as anxiety, separation or divorce, and the loss of a family member. Similarly, the USC interns also utilize psychotherapy and provide psycho-education workshops, co-facilitate staff trainings, and provide direct classroom support to the program coordinators. The IHADLA program manager, also an MSW, oversees both partnerships, the USC MSW interns, and provides crisis intervention to programming. In addition, Sandra Hill-Glover, the USC external field instructor, meets weekly with the MSW interns for supervision; supervision aids the interns in linking social theory to practice and provides space for consultation.

Matthew MSW Intern from USC working with Rey, a third grade Dreamer from Boyle Heights, for mental health.
Matthew, one of our wonderful 2015-2016 MSW Interns from USC, working with Rey, a third grade student Dreamer from Boyle Heights.

IHADLA looks forward to providing deeper mental health services to our Dreamers and their families in the coming years! If you are interested in the clinical aspect of our programming and would like to connect with us, please contact Janell Lewis (MSW) at