Changing Mental Health Culture in the San Fernando Valley

The San Fernando Valley is home to many communities of color and immigrant communities in Southern California’s Los Angeles County. These communities are rich in history and culture, but in many of their households, mental health is still a rare topic of conversation. This creates a prominent hurdle for high school students in the area looking for mental health discussion or support. 

“Coming from an immigrant household, mental health is not something many [immigrant parents] really acknowledge,” says Griselda Galicinao, Supervisor, Community Health. “It’s just something that’s not true to them. Being from a culture that has this barrier motivates me to help students in a way I wish I could’ve been helped at that age.” 

The Thriving Together project, led by the LA Region of the Providence Community Health Investment (CHI) and Providence High School (PHS), aims to enhance school-based mental health resources for teenagers in the San Fernando Valley. It specifically targets high schools in high-need, low-resourced areas to improve resources for youth requiring behavioral health services, many of whom come from BIPOC and/or immigrant homes. 

“I think for communities of color and migrant communities, there’s an extra layer that you have to address head on,” says Anthony Ortiz Luis, Director, Community Health. “And I think the work that’s being done with this project allows that starting point of conversation, or at least equipping these students to be able to go back to their families and their households to be able to say ‘Hey, mom, dad, abuelo, abuela, here’s what I learned.’ We’re equipping these students to be that change agent within their own households and their own families, because if it wasn’t for this, how else would they get the access to this work and these resources?” 

Thriving Together is shifting the mental health narrative in schools by training 75 teenagers over two years to provide mental health workshops and discussions for 1,500 of their peers, as well as organizing a teen behavioral health summit to connect students across schools and share experiences and resources.  The work is being implemented using Work2BeWell curricula and is taking place in schools in Burbank, Pacoima, and Van Nuys – all in the San Fernando Valley.  

Additionally, support is available for teens who are identified as needing further behavioral health resources beyond the curriculum. Teens who self-refer or who seek support from the W2BW teen facilitators are linked with a CHI Community Health Worker (CHW) who will provide a warm hand-off for the teen to either a school-based counseling service or to one of CHI’s community-based behavioral health resources. 

The students in these schools, like many around the country, are still processing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent isolation that came with it, making this thorough mental health support an even greater need. 

“We’re still seeing that aftermath in students,” says Shanica Dale, Dean of Equity and Wellbeing, Providence High School. “We’re seeing that gap in social skills development and social anxiety, and some people may think it’s not that hard – just go talk to someone or tell them how you feel. When we’re trying to encourage our students to use those communication skills and how to navigate those hard conversations. They need this more than ever.” 

For all three project leads, they see themselves in these students and recognize how imperative this information is for them. They, like many in the generation before them, are motivated to help students in a way they wish they could have been helped in their high school days. The generational view of mental health is shifting with work like Thriving Together, and it must continue to see results. 

Providence’s Well Being Trust is honored to drive important work that advances the mental health and well-being of our youth. Learn more at