By Susan Parmelee
On Thursday, Oct. 25, more than 100 community members gathered to support the work of the Wellness & Prevention Center, which provides prevention education and mental health services on the middle and high school campuses in San Clemente. The well-being of our youth has been declining over the past six years as rates of clinical depression and anxiety have escalated. Teens are also challenged by the prevalence of alcohol and other substance use in our society, and the Wellness & Prevention Center is here to support healthier choices.
The festivities at the Casino San Clemente included The Stringerz Ukulele Trio, Dennis the Strolling Magician and tasty food by Iva Lee’s catering. Guests bid on items like a weekend in a villa in La Quinta, tickets to Dear Evan Hansen with dinner at VACA, four tickets to the UCLA vs. USC football game at the Rose Bowl, a dinner prepared by cookbook author Jim Kempton and a variety of silent auction items. If you were not there, please join our email list at www.wpc-oc.org and you will receive an invite to next year’s event.
I would like to give a very special shout-out to Haelynn, who spoke to our guests about the mental health and substance abuse challenges she confronts and has kept at bay for the last two years, allowing for success in her first year of college. This was a difficult task to speak to a packed room about her deepest personal issues; however, she told me it is important for everyone to speak more and to support our youth. She mentioned classmates who are now homeless and cannot access services, like the valuable mental health services she was able to receive right on her high school campus.
Some of the challenges that we see daily in our work on the school campuses include the pressures of social media and resisting screen time; the legalization of marijuana and a decreased perception of harm as marijuana use is normalized; the vaping epidemic that is leading youth to become addicted to nicotine; and the stress of intense school and extracurricular activities. Through classroom education and afterschool seminars, as well as education of parents through Facebook, newsletters and presentations, we help youth overcome these challenges, choosing wellness and balanced lifestyles free from legal and illegal substances and alcohol.
I was humbled to witness the support our organization received. I encourage everyone in our community to choose a youth-serving organization to support. The smallest donations make a difference. Here are a few of the non-profits we partner with: Community Outreach Alliance (COA), Boys & Girls Club of the South Coast Area, Family Assistance Ministries, Kiwanis, San Clemente High School Educational Foundation and each of the secondary school PTAs. Please consider finding a way to support the Wellness & Prevention Center or one of the above organizations. Our youth need the continued support of the community.
Susan Parmelee is a mental health social worker and one of the founders of the Wellness & Prevention Center, San Clemente. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.