By Kathleen Pender l February 21, 2023
From climate change to school shootings to social media and the pandemic, teenagers today are facing pressures their parents rarely, if ever, encountered. These newer sources of stress contribute to a rise in mental health struggles among adolescents.
While some 70% of teens across all genders, races, and family income levels say anxiety and depression are significant problems among their peers, it’s not always easy for teens to talk about these issues or know where to turn for help. That’s why Blue Shield of California’s BlueSky program partnered with DoSomething.org, the online hub for youth-centered activism, to create the Vibe Check program. Vibe Check aims to open real conversations about mental health, steer teens toward reliable resources, and help them discuss challenges they or their friends may have.
The program’s centerpiece is the downloadable DoSomething Vibe Check Guide, which equips teens with the tools to have meaningful conversations about mental health with their peers and their communities. The guide includes tips for active listening, conversation starters, and resources. “The guide is awesome, from the design, colors, and how it’s written with teens in mind, without adults trying to use teenage jargon. I thought it was very respectful of teenagers and their intelligence level,” said Maya Gomez, a senior at Whitney High School near Sacramento and mental health advocate.
“Sometimes it’s hard for teens — and adults for that matter — to know how to start a conversation about mental health,” said Nicole Stelter, Ph.D., a licensed marriage and family therapist and director of behavioral health for Blue Shield of California. .“Often times people will avoid these conversations because they are afraid of saying the wrong thing,” Stelter says. “But the simplest show of support, like asking them how they’re feeling or offering support is all you need to do.”
Building a support system
For teens that hear of a friend considering suicide or self-harm, immediately tell a trusted adult – such as a parent, friend’s parent, teacher, coach, or pastor – and encourage the friend to call 988, the national mental helpline. DeNora Getachew, Chief Executive Officer of DoSomething agrees, “Taking care of mental health is a part of overall health and well-being. Just because you can’t see the pain, as you can with a broken arm, doesn’t mean it’s not real.”
The Vibe Check Guide provides a curated list of websites and phone numbers teens can contact for emergency and non-emergency help. The guide also shares tips on how to build a support system through communications (both sharing and listening):
Can we talk? Tell an adult (parent, guardian, or family friend) that you’re feeling overwhelmed and unsure what to do about it. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or guidance for yourself, a friend, or a loved one.
Find a friend. Reach out to a friend when you’re feeling lonely or don’t want to be alone with your thoughts and feelings.
Write it down. Sometimes saying how you feel can be scary. Writing down feelings can stop mental cycling and help clear the mind.
Are you listening? Check in with family and friends and really listen. Sometimes, they may want to vent, ask for help, or just be heard.
Get connected. Be available and dedicate time to connect. Scheduling regular “hang time” allows space to be heard and to listen.
Check out the DoSomething Vibe Check Guide for more tips, tools, and resources.
“The greatest gift we can give our peers when it comes to mental health is to walk alongside them and let them know they are not alone in what they are facing,” said 18-year-old Gabriella, who participated in the Vibe Check program. “Instilling and reinforcing positive thoughts and actions, like those outlined in the guide, help build healthy habits, and know the many mental health resources at our disposal.”
“We are glad the collaboration between our BlueSky program and DoSomething produced an important guide that will hopefully open more doors for young people to have honest and meaningful conversations about their mental health,” Stelter said.
Established in 2019, BlueSky is Blue Shield’s signature youth mental health initiative, investing in best-in-class youth mental health programs that incorporate youth voices to bridge the gap between stigma and empowerment, especially among underrepresented youth. For more on BlueSky, click here.
Blue Shield of California Offers Breadth of Benefits, Programs, and Services to Meet Diverse Needs of Medicare Beneficiaries
Posted: October 5, 2022
OAKLAND, Calif.– As the Medicare Annual Election Period approaches, Blue Shield of California encourages Medicare beneficiaries to focus on what matters most to them as they select their health plan for the coming year.
“As we emerge from the pandemic, Blue Shield of California has thoughtfully designed its Medicare benefit plans to meet the important needs of the growing senior population, especially as they confront emerging chronic conditions or mental health challenges,” said Lina Saadzoi, vice president and general manager of Medicare at Blue Shield. “We offer health plan coverage for both traditional in-person medical care as well as innovative technology-based programs, at no additional cost to members.”
Medicare beneficiaries and prospects also should consider where, when, and how they want to receive their health care, and what additional services are important to them as they review their choices.
The nonprofit health plan is offering the following list of high-tech, high-touch healthcare options for Medicare plans for 2023:
High-tech, online, and digital services
“Many seniors are turning to digital channels and virtual options for their health care,” Saadzoi said. “They want the choice to have virtual medical visits or to be able to use digital apps for physical and mental health solutions in combination with traditional, office-based health care from their doctors and specialists.”
Blue Shield’s offerings include 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week access to online, virtual, and digital apps for physical and mental health care via mobile phones, tablets, or computers.
Medicare Advantage: New benefits and plan expansions
Blue Shield will continue to offer high-value benefits and wide range of plan choices in 2023. For example, Blue Shield’s Medicare Advantage members will enjoy enhanced dental options such as $0 copay and a more flexible schedule for teeth cleaning. Also, Blue Shield of California is expanding its Medicare Advantage Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plan into Orange and San Diego counties.
Provider choice offered
For members aging into Medicare, the ability to keep their provider is important, which is why Blue Shield is offering one of the largest provider networks in California for its Medicare Advantage plans, which also include prescription drug coverage. Additionally, Blue Shield’s Medicare Supplement (also known as MediGap) plans offer members the ability to go to any physician who accepts Medicare and fills most coverage gaps traditional Medicare does not cover.
Care-coordination programs, additional services
Blue Shield offers special care-coordination programs for members with chronic conditions. They include:
- A comprehensive home-based, house-calls care program for Medicare Advantage members with complex health issues and five or more chronic conditions provides physician-led house calls to qualifying members, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- Special Supplemental Benefits for the Chronically Ill offer benefits such as the Healthy Grocery benefit, which is a monthly allowance that eligible Medicare Advantage members can use towards the purchase of healthy and nutritious foods and produce.
- Blue Shield offers the Independence and Safe Mobility program in collaboration with AAA. This is a 1Special Supplemental Benefit for the Chronically Ill that helps eligible members to remain independent through roadside assistance support and educational tools to promote safer driving.
Blue Shield offers dedicated concierge agents who can assist Medicare Advantage members with services such as scheduling appointments with primary care physicians and specialists, obtaining test results and medical equipment, closing care gaps and other important services.
“As a nonprofit health plan, Blue Shield has been serving Californians for more than 80 years with a track record of stability, brand integrity, and mission-driven service,” Saadzoi said. “We believe that for 2023, Medicare members, prospects, and those aging-in to Medicare will appreciate our heritage and the trust they can have in our service to them.”
1The benefits mentioned are part of special supplemental benefits available in select plans. Not all plan members will qualify. Refer to the Evidence of Coverage for details and eligibility requirements.
About Blue Shield of California
Blue Shield of California strives to create a healthcare system worthy of its family and friends that is sustainably affordable. Blue Shield of California is a tax-paying, nonprofit, independent member of the Blue Shield Association with 4.7 million members, 7,800 employees, and $22.9 billion in annual revenue. Founded in 1939 in San Francisco and now headquartered in Oakland, Blue Shield of California and its affiliates provide health, dental, vision, Medicaid, and Medicare healthcare service plans in California. The company has contributed $120 million to Blue Shield of California Foundation in the last three years to have an impact on California communities. For more news about Blue Shield of California, please visit news.blueshieldca.com.
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Parents And Children in Mental Health Crises Need To Know – Recovery Is Possible
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) shares lived experience
By Jenny Manrique Ethnic Media Services l June 21, 2022
Miami, Fl. – Estephania Plascencia struggled with chronic depression and anxiety from when she was in grade school until her mid-20s when she finally sought help. The anxiety attacks had become so frequent, she hardly left her bed. A friend convinced her to see a therapist and she started learning healthy coping strategies and taking medication.
Today, Plascencia is the Youth Program Coordinator at the Miami-Dade chapter of the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI), a peer based organization of people with lived experience that offers free education classes and support groups for individuals with mental health conditions and their family members.
“NAMI helped me realize I was not alone. They became part of my support network and family…They provided the validation and understanding that allowed me to work with other people in their recovery journeys.”
Plascencia spoke at a virtual news briefing hosted by the NAMI’s Miami-Dade chapter as part of a month-long campaign to raise awareness of the nationwide increase in mental illness among children and youth – declared a national emergency by the American Pediatrics Association. She speaks to packed auditoriums of middle and high school students and has found that sharing her story “is the strongest tool to fight against the stigma” that attaches to mental illness.
Post-pandemic kids are curious, Plascencia said. “Frequently they ask how to find mental help when parents don’t believe them and misread their symptoms as laziness or scold them for missing school or not finding a job.”
Eddy Molin, a psychiatric nurse at the Jackson Health System Miami, says he sees “parents being tough on their kids aiming for their success, but not acknowledging that they are experiencing a crisis.”
Over the last two months, Molin has noticed a rise in admissions among children with anxiety and disruptive behavior. He believes the mass shootings – especially those at school settings – have unsettled kids already struggling with isolation. He encouraged parents to be “compassionate and empathetic, to pay attention to symptoms such as withdrawal, a decline in personal hygiene, longer times in bed and disengagement from life, even with the things they used to love such as playing video games.”
“When you have a support system that is there for you, recovery is attainable,” Molin stressed. “Sometimes it’s important to be on medication, but sometimes that may be tiring, too. Show love. Love is the key.”
Joshua Ho learned this advice the hard way. For 14 years he worked six days a week as a dean of discipline at a middle school in North Miami. He was used to taking care of his immigrant students who faced “tragic incidents” within their families or countries of origin. “I thought I knew what mental health was about,” said Ho, an immigrant from Korea who today is the Program Director for Miami-Dade County Asian American Advisory Board.
But he was oblivious to the fact that his eldest son was struggling. When the son began having stomach aches, headaches, lack of energy and a constant need to sleep, Ho became angry. “As a typical Asian parent, my expectations for my son were very high…Why isn’t he doing what he’s supposed to do?” Ho recalls.
He sent his son to a church youth pastor and made an appointment with an acupuncturist, nothing worked. Finally, his son talked with a counselor and Ho learned he was suffering from mental illness. Now 20, his son is on the path of recovery.
“There is no book about how to be a right parent,” Ho said. “But yelling and screaming doesn’t help. Conversation does.”
For Susan Racher, Board President of NAMI Miami-Dade, “We have to start with education – knowing that you have a right to get help and knowing where to find health.” That’s what inspired NAMI’s monthlong public education campaign that has included public events, workshops, advertising, billboards. “Mental health conditions are more common than any other but unfortunately, care and mental health literacy are elusive in many communities,” she said.
Official data show that one in six youth have current diagnoses of Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, anxiety, behavior problems or depression, but only half received mental health treatment in the prior year.
Beth Jarosz, Acting Director for KidsData at the Population Reference Bureau, noted that the US suicide rate for 15-to-19-year-olds is nearly 60% higher in 2020 than it was in 2007. More worrying, she said, is that in Florida the suicide rate for 10-to-14-year-olds in 2020 is more than triple the rate in 2007. By contrast, rates in California are frozen at about 33% and rates in New York barely changed.
“Even though youth suicide rates are highest for whites and Asian and Pacific Islander Americans, rates for black youth are rising fast,” she said. “They have doubled in the past two decades.”
Jarosz said that the groups most at risk for mental health disorders are indigenous youth, youth who face an adverse childhood experience like suicide or substance abuse problems in their family, LGBTQ youth, and youth who experience homelessness or are in the foster care system.
From her path to recovery, Plascencia learned that mental illnesses are treatable and that’s the main message she wants to stress. “There’s help and definitely you don’t have to bear it alone.