2020 brought on many hardships within the Sacramento community; more specifically for Sacramento youth. Adjusting to new systems like distance learning, social isolation, and facing economic and social disparities caused by the pandemic exacerbated the many problems youth faced prior to the pandemic, ultimately taking a toll on their mental health. Recent reports have demonstrated the impact the pandemic has had on the mental health of youth and other individuals within Sacramento County.

In the first week of April 2020, 2 students had committed suicide, one who attended a school located in the Sacramento area Natomas. Sacramento Police department reported that mental health-related calls had increased since the pandemic. According to Be Healthy Sacramento, it was last reported in August of 2020 that Sacramento county had suffered 13 deaths due to suicide; this was a reported increase from around the same time in 2019. 

2020 played a big role in the youth mental health conversation expanding. In an Interview with Greg Garcia, local mental health advocate and program manager for CitiesRISE Sacramento, explained how “More people are talking about mental health than I’ve ever seen before, in a way because everybody’s having some kind of effect around it.”  

We’ve seen many programs and organizations within Sacramento take action and expand their services to deal with the youth mental health crisis in Sacramento. 

CitiesRISE is a global platform committed to transforming the state of mental health policy and practice in cities and beyond to meet the mental health needs of populations across the world. CitiesRISE’ programs can be found all over the world; in cities like Chennai, Nairobi, Bogata, Seattle, and Sacramento.

Their mission is “to improve mental health and wellbeing by connecting leading mental health practitioners and community members to: Drive change through city- and community-based alliances and initiatives, Adopt evidence-based strategies for tackling the most pressing problems in mental health and wellbeing, and Scale up proven tools and approaches.”

CitiesRISE Sacramento chapter engages youth through what Greg Garcia explained as the “YouthRISE youth leaders program…engaging young people who don’t normally think about mental health but are passionate about doing something, and trying to find ways to rethink what mental health looks like for young people today, and what would make it more easily accessible to young people, and less stigmatized.” 

“To make young people more aware, and in some sense, it’s kinda happening already; so we’re just trying to help young people name it and realize it.”

Greg Garcia explained how today’s Hip Hop has widened the conversation about mental health and began to normalize the expression of feelings. Rappers like Juice World, Rod Wave, Kendrick Lamar, Tyler the Creator, and Drake have been widely known to open up to their listeners about their mental health battles, emotional dilemmas, heartbreaks, and their feelings.

“The Hip Hop I grew up on was more gangster rap, but now we have people talking about feelings and that it’s ok to have feelings. That is different!” 

Garcia explained how his youth program plans to expand its strong youth leadership by promoting artistry in all forms, hobbies, and talents through youth-led events, performances, and media outreach; some of which youth are already doing. “In that process of promoting young people, we want to show the connections in our mental health. When we give young people the microphone they will heal themselves,” said Garcia. 

You can get involved, and reach citiesRISE through Instagram @916rise. CitiesRISE’s youth program, YouthRISE, has team meetings every Friday at 4 pm. For more information, visit their Instagram where you can get in touch with their youth leaders or contact Greg Garcia via email.

Safe Black Space is another Sacramento Organization and movement working to tackle mental health disparities, stigmas, and crises within the Black community. Safe Black Space started in April of 2018 as a response to the stress and trauma in the Black community caused by the killing of Stephon Clark

Safe Black space is a healing space for Black people to address the problems they face and provides culturally specific ways to come together. Safe Black Space acknowledges the experiences of Black people and recognizes the unique historical, systemic factors that affect the mental health of the Black community, and how that, in turn, affects Black people in unique ways it does not affect others. 

In an interview with Dr. Kristee Haggins, the founder of Safe Black Space, she explained how “This idea of intergenerational collective historical trauma- Slavery, Jim crow, the separation of our families, the whip on our back, and all of the things that we’ve been through affects us greatly.”

Dr. Kristee Haggins, the founder of Safe Black Space.

Dr. Kristee Haggins is an African-centered psychologist, professor, and community healer who for over 25 years, has focused on Black mental health and wellness, noting the impact of racial stress and trauma on Black bodies. “Based on the experiences I’ve had and what I know, I wanna help African people acknowledge the greatness in themselves,” said Haggins.

Safe Black Space has mobilized a growing collective of local practitioners, community members and activists, faith leaders, educators and others of African ancestry. This village has been offering Safe Black Space Community Healing Circles on a monthly basis across Sacramento, as well as advocating locally and demanding justice in instances of racism and oppression,” Safe Black Space explains.

Healing circles by Safe Black Space are held via zoom, every second Saturday of the month from 3pm to 4pm. Haggins describes her healing circles to be “a place where Black people can unload themselves, and their problems without being told they’re making things up or overreacting…A place where we can just be. Be our own medicine”

Dr. Haggins explained how the pandemic created an even bigger need for her healing circles. “There’s a double pandemic that’s happening in our world and for the Black community. After George Floyd, there was an increased need and request for our circles,” said Haggins.

Dr. Kristee Haggins and Safe Black Space Continue to serve as a significant resource for Black people in the community to heal themselves, reaching people as far as New England. In a quote from their website, one person explained how, “People of African descent need communal healing practices that are caring, ethical, and affirming to help us renew our souls and that provide mutual support, hope, and grace in these troubling times. Safe Black Space is that.”

Dr. Haggins touched on how the system of white supremacy embedded within the lives and teachings of Black people have intentionally caused them detrimental harm, and how it’s “taught us to look down on ourselves… But our circles reorient us to the truth, reclaim that truth, and recognize our greatness.”

By us, for us, we need to have spaces where we can unpack some of this, valuing the need for groups to be able to do this with their people,” said Haggins

To get involved with Safe Black Space visit their website SafeBlackSpace.org, or contact them via email at SafeBlackSpace@gmail.com or by phone at 530-683-5101