How Jennifer Seibel Newsom Became a Champion of Youth Mental Health

credit: Jennifer Siebel Newsom / Facebook

jennifer siebel newsom

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First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom has spent decades spotlighting, investigating and uplifting young people’s mental well-being. But for him, the topic is above professional duties. it’s private.

When Siebel Newsom was 6 years old, her older sister died in an accident, causing her to struggle with grief and emotional turmoil at a young age. That said, she knows firsthand what it feels like to be a child who has experienced loss and trauma, like many California children have endured during the pandemic.

“I think we went to therapy once (after my sister died), and then it was like, Go ahead, everything’s fine, we’re just going to pretend like nothing happened,” she recently Hee said in an interview with Adsore, her eyes filling with tears. “And it was painful to lose your best friend and your sister. So I’ve always known, what do you have without your mental health?”

Siebel Newsom attended college, earned her MBA, and then worked in Hollywood for a few years before turning her skills to documentary filmmaking. She has produced four award-winning documentaries focused on mental health, equity, gender and related topics, beginning with “Miss Representation” in 2011 on how portrayals of women often focus on beauty and sexuality and the effects on young people Huh. “The Mask You Live In,” released in 2015, looks at how boys struggle with the expectations surrounding masculinity. In 2020, “The Great American Lie” examined racial and income inequality in America. Most recently, “Fair Play” focused on the difficulties women face as they attempt to balance work and home life.

Beyond the camera, Siebel Newsom has been a constant, outspoken advocate throughout her husband’s administration for students experiencing trauma, anxiety, depression and other emotional difficulties. This year the Newsom administration set aside $4.7 billion for youth mental health programs in California, billed as the nation’s largest investment ever in children’s emotional well-being.

The money will go towards a number of programs, including:

  • 40,000 new school counselors and other mental health professionals.
  • Community schools that provide social services to students and their families.
  • Streamlined Medi-Cal coverage for young people to receive free mental health services.
  • One-Stop Online hub For youth mental health services including a hotline, videos and tips for parents.

As the first partner, Siebel Newsom has focused on improving nutrition in schools, greater outdoor access for children, and other initiatives related to youth well-being.

Linda Darling-Hammond, chair of the State Board of Education, praised Sibel Newsom’s “persistent and persistent” efforts on behalf of California’s children, families and teachers.

,Darling-Hammond said she has great empathy for the traumatic experiences of young people and their families during the pandemic and has played an important role in organizing awareness of these issues as well as resources for socio-emotional support and practices has played “She has a vibrant vision for whole-child, whole-family, whole-community education systems that truly nurture all students so they can flourish – feed their bodies with nutritious food, their minds with deep With opportunities for investigation, and a sense of belonging, acceptance, and love to their hearts.

Siebel Newsom’s efforts are especially welcome after so many years of lack of funding in California for mental health services, said Loretta Whitson, director of the California Association of School Counselors.

“She is acutely aware that comprehensive mental health services in California schools are inadequate. While the governor’s recent investment will add additional school counselors to the workforce, there is an even greater need for access to films and curriculum support materials such as Seibel Newsom’s documentary series Will be,” Whitson said. “(We) would love to work with her and support her efforts.”

Siebel Newsom is also a mother of four who, like most parents, has experienced the pain of watching her children suffer emotional distress during the pandemic.

“I had to learn to ground (them), and myself as well. It really helped,” she told a recent conference of counselors and school administrators in Napa. “When children experience these challenges, we need to realize that it is not their fault. … As a parent, there is nothing worse than seeing your child in pain and feeling unable to help.”

Their own experiences, as well as the experiences of other parents, have helped shape their advocacy efforts. In 2021, Siebel Newsom visits the state to hear about the frustration and challenges of parents during the pandemic, what can help families cope with school closures, quarantines, loss of loved ones and other hardships Collected ideas for She heard time and time again about the addiction of children to technology — young people who rarely left their rooms because they were glued to their phones, or gamed countless hours a day, or were consumed by social media. Used to go away, or completely cut off from their family and friends.

In conjunction with a group he founded, the California Partners Project, he used the information to create tool kits For families, schools, and others to help kids overcome technology addiction.

“I’m always going to be the person to say that the elephant in the room is technology addiction and social media addiction and everything that comes with that,” she told AdSource. “Our children’s brains are still plastic and not quite set, and they are being manipulated by this technology which is creating more isolation and alienating us from each other and relationships. So we Knew we had to address it holistically.

One solution to these challenges is for young people to get outside more and eat more nutritious food. She also committed $60 million to the state’s Farm to School grant program, school gardens, cooking classes and other projects to bring healthy, fresh food to schools and teach kids about where their food comes from. She was a key supporter of the initiative.

To encourage kids to get outside more, she pioneered the California State Parks Adventure Pass, which gives all fourth graders in California and their families free admission to 19 state parks, and the California State Library Parks Pass. , which offers free vehicle passes to state parks available at check-out with a library card.

Amy Cranston, executive director of the Social Emotional Learning Alliance for California, said Siebel Newsom’s advocacy has helped draw attention to the youth mental health crisis and promote wellness in schools.

“As we can see from her documentary work, she is aware of and informed by these important issues facing us as a society,” Cranston said. “We are very grateful for the support of both her and the governor’s office for the critical role they play in student success in school and in life.”

Darling-Hammond said Siebel Newsom“Takes care of the 60 lakh children of the state with the same concern and compassion that she has for her own four children.”

As the governor’s wife, Siebel Newsom finds she is in a unique position to combine her personal interest in the well-being of young people with policies that reach regular Californians. With the pandemic, an increase in youth technology use, and a general increase in bitterness and polarization, she said she feels a sense of urgency for her job and those of California’s children.

“This is a public health emergency,” she said. “Given what is happening in the country and the world, it is critical that California succeeds now. And that starts with the well-being of our children.”

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