‘Mental Health Matters’ Returns To SALA In September


Mental Health Matters – a collaborative series hosted by the LAPS Prevention Program, Los Alamos JJAB, the Los Alamos County Municipal Court, and the Los Alamos Public Schools Foundation – returns to SALA at 6:30 p.m. Thursdays in September for suicide prevention month.

All events are free to the public. The first 25 students who bring an adult will receive a free popcorn and drink courtesy of their sponsors!

The goal of this series is to raise awareness and offer strategies to improve children, teens, and family mental health. The series kicks off Thursday, Sept. 7 with Let’s C.H.A.A.T. – Creating Healthy Attitudes Around Technology – hosted by Los Alamos Public Schools’ Director of Technology Sal Zapien. This discussion will focus on setting our elementary-aged students up for success including building up protective factors, talking to children about using tech at home, creating and sticking to guidelines and using tools to manage devices. Families are encouraged to bring their children so that they can participate in the discussion. Snacks and drinks will be provided.

Screenagers NEXT CHAPTER will be shown on Sept. 14. This film flips the script on stress, anxiety and depression and aims to understand these challenges in our current screen-filled society. The filmmaker explores how parents, caregivers, and schools can empower teens to overcome mental health challenges and build emotional agility, communication skills, and stress resilience. Plan to stay for a discussion to share experiences and strategies with other community members.

Sept. 21 features Screenagers Under the Influence, a new release that examines the impact of our digital age on teens’ decision making in relation to substances such as vaping, alcohol, drugs and gaming. This film explores the latest research, highlights the personal experiences of teens and families, acknowledges the changing landscape of the substances themselves, and offers solutions for how we can best empower teens as they face decisions about what they will and will not be influenced by. A discussion of the information and ideas will follow the film. Families who attended the showing in May appreciated the film’s focus on the developing brain and the science of addiction. One parent shared, “I would recommend this to all parents as a great jumping off point for having practical discussions with their kids.

”Screenagers films are recommended for youth in 6th grade and above.

The final event, Ask a Therapist, will feature guest speakers from the mental health field sharing information about recognizing and responding to depression and anxiety in youth of all ages, early signs and symptoms, tips for checking in and how to identify and respond in a crisis. Spanish language support will be available at this event. Light food and refreshments will be provided. This final event is designed for parents and caregivers – come with any questions you would like to ask our local therapists and mental health providers. Childcare for school-aged children will be provided by the Ark by RSVP to Los Alamos JJAB. Participant feedback from May’s presentation and discussion was overwhelmingly positive with parents sharing that “it was nice to be able to talk to a knowledgeable professional” and that they “will not feel as lost when dealing with [their child’s] anxiety”.

Each weekly event in September will offer opportunities for individuals to share their experiences and learn from others. Attendees will have the chance to engage in open and honest conversations about mental health so that we can begin to address the stigma associated with mental illness and more effectively promote mental wellness. Through this program, the organizers hope to create a safe and supportive space for individuals to come together and learn about mental health to foster a more resilient, connected, and compassionate community.

The Los Alamos Public Schools district coordinates a spectrum of prevention activities that are provided by school staff and community partners with funding support from Los Alamos County. The aim of the program is to build protective factors, life skills, and resilience and reduce risk behaviors and harm to children and youth.

For more information or to offer suggestions to the LAPS Prevention Program, Prevention Support Specialist Kristine Coblentz can be reached at k.coblentz@laschools.net or (505) 663-2575.