CUSD and Hoag Host First Session of Speaker Series with Gaming, Social Media and Mental Wellness Discussion

Capistrano Unified School District hosted its first community lecture event in partnership with Hoag Hospital. The 2019-2020 series titled, “Helping Teens and Families Navigate Mental Health and Wellness,” will feature discussions on a variety of topics that impact today’s young people.

The first session of the series, dedicated to gaming addiction, social media and mental wellness, was held on Wednesday, September 11 at Capistrano Valley High School. The event received over 500 RSVP’s, bringing together family members and staff from across the district to hear from a distinguished panel of teen mental health experts from ASPIRE at Hoag.

ASPIRE (After School Programs for Interventions and Resiliency Education) at Hoag is designed to help young people experiencing emotional and neurobehavioral problems, including depression, anxiety, trauma, grief and other symptoms related to mental health.

Guests heard from Dr. Sina Safahieh, child and adolescent psychiatrist, who shared the signs for concern, differences between normal teen behaviors and potentially harmless ones, and ways to help youth. Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists Prerna Rao and Valeri Trezise, also answered questions.

The district’s partnership with Hoag brings health and education together to support students and families, shedding light on important topics that are challenging families and the school district. The lecture series provides preventative resources and intends to make a positive impact in the mental health of the community.

“Here at CUSD, we’ve made significant investments in the social-emotional support of our students,” said Superintendent Kirsten Vital. “Today, we have at least one counselor in every school from elementary to high school, and we plan to continue to increase the resources we have available for our students’ mental health.”

The topic was of utmost importance as parents shared with the district on many occasions, their concern for their teens gaming and social media use, and mental health. Mental health experts and researchers are also noting the impacts of these topics across the U.S. In fact, the World Health Organization recently recognized “gaming disorder” as a diagnosable condition, as excessive gaming and focus on social media can cause psychological effects such as irritability, depression, isolation and anxiety.

Dr. Safahieh shared what he sees from teens in Orange County, specifically discussing how technology is impacting adolescent brain development and why it’s important to establish healthy boundaries with video games and cell phones.

“A lot of kids only find pleasure in these video games, and that addiction leads toward depression, impairment, sleep disturbances, energy loss, focus issues and a loss of pleasure in different aspects of their lives,” Safahieh said. “If you see these things those are red flags.”

The presentation concluded with an open discussion to audience questions.

Throughout the year, Hoag and CUSD will continue to have mental health experts from Hoag to discuss a variety of topics including self-harm and suicide, and overall teen mental health and wellness.

The next discussion, “Identifying Substance Abuse Disorders and Vaping Dangers” will be on Wednesday, November 13 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Aliso Niguel High School, 28000 Wolverine Way, Aliso Viejo.

Dr. Steven Ey, chief of service, Hoag Addiction Treatment Centers will serve as feature speaker, sharing the common warning signs of teen drug and alcohol use, dangers of vaping, how to approach the topic with youth, and what resources are available if help is needed. A panel of teen mental health experts from ASPIRE at Hoag, including child and adolescent psychiatrist Dr. Sina Safahieh and licensed marriage and family therapists Prerna Rao and Dave Cook, will also answer audience questions.

The topic comes at a critical time as mental health and substance use are reaching crisis levels for Orange County youth.

For more information and to RSVP for the November 13 discussion, click here.

To watch the recording of the September 11 discussion, click here.

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