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San Marcos Unified launches mental health program for students

Today is World Mental Health Day, and the San Marcos Unified School District took the opportunity to announce their new approach to addressing mental health needs for their youth. KPBS North County reporter Tania Thorne tells us about the district's new program.

"Let's Face it Together," is the name of a new mental health program San Marcos students will have access to.

Mission Hills High School student Irene Irvin said she was in a bad mental state when she moved to San Marcos.

"I couldn't be here, standing here ... without you guys. And just to know that you guys really care .... makes a big difference and impact," Irvin said. "I do hope that the ‘Lets Face it Together' program has millions of impacts out there for other students who need to hear the story and face all these mental health problems." 


"I was worried about being neglected — being rejected. Not being able to fit in like the rest of the students were. But one day something changed … and ... that was the amazing Mission Hills grizzlies on our campus and the 'Lets Face it (Together) Program,'" Irvin said.

She commended the counselors and adults on her campus who helped pull her out of a dark spot. All are a part of the program.

"We've always had counselors, we've always had social workers, we've always had folks on campus that cared," said Christi Frias, the director of student services for the district. "But this was really going to draw attention to the fact that mental health is everybody's business. Everybody’s been impacted by the pandemic — nobody was left unscathed."  

She said part of the campaign is an effort at de-stigmatizing mental health care.

"While pre-pandemic people might’ve thought, 'Oh mental health ... counseling ... that's weird.' There's nobody that can say they didn't have some impact after being home," Frias said. "So, this was the way to do that in a positive way. It's not looked down on, there's no shame with it. We're here for you." 


Colorful posters and signs throughout the campus encouraged students to reach out if they needed mental health help.

Students can access help by texting a number that will respond with confidential resources.

There is also a wellness team that addresses more severe cases and goes on to address mental health needs in the student's home.

A $2 million grant from the city of San Marcos helped roll out the two-year program.

But Frias said it's something they planned on keeping and funding because the investment was saving student lives.

"We have saved lives," she said. "And we can say that confidently. And it's almost on a weekly basis where we are having students coming forward that maybe previously wouldn't have had the support ... and now they're getting it."    

San Marcos students can text 741-741 if they or a friend are looking for mental health support.

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