Originally Published in the Napa Valley Register on 5/23/23

Napa Valley’s Teens Show Up for Mental Wellness

By Jeni Olsen, Mentis Prevention Director

An estimated 100 young people showed up for Mentis’ first annual Youth Mental Health Festival on Saturday afternoon, held at the Pelusi Building at Kennedy Park. The goal of the festival was to expose youth to a variety of self-care activities and wellness tools to equip them in caring for their mental health. A wide range of activities covered all the dimensions of wellness including body movement exercises like yoga, walking meditations, and silent disco; arts and crafts projects including guided painting, venting jars, and empowerment bracelets; sensory experiences with essential oils and therapy animals; budgeting and savings tips to promote financial wellness; and healthy snacking featuring a build-your-own trail mix station. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to self-care and there was something for everyone. Many community organizations joined Mentis and hosted activities, allowing partners to educate youth about their programs and share resources in a fun and supportive environment.

After the event, Kristin Anderson, Director of Programs for Napa Valley Education Foundation shared, “This was the most fun we’ve ever had at an outreach event. It was so interactive and well thought out.” Kristin and her team hosted an affirmations booth, complete with prompts, stickers, and markers. Teens had fun creating personal affirmations that they used to take photos in the Affirmations Photo Booth.

Exposing young people to the many ways they can care for their bodies, minds, and hearts helps with stigma reduction and self-regulation, builds awareness around identifying feelings, and empowers youth to manage their emotions. Providing these experiences in a healthy social environment promotes positive peer connection. One of the teens who attended shared, “This really is a safe and supportive environment for youth. Thank you for giving us this opportunity to be involved!”

The idea for a festival came when discussing marketing ideas for May, as it is Mental Health Awareness Month. Nyah McWilliams, Mentis Prevention Specialist, suggested that Mentis design a fun event specifically for the teen community. “We wanted to do something notable for the youth, and for whatever we came up with to be memorable, collaborative with the teens, and of quality, and I really think we delivered.”

Mentis is currently expanding their Teens Connect program and everyone is welcome. For more information, please visit @teensconnectnapa on Instagram or reach out to Nyah McWilliams at nmcwilliams@mentisnapa.org.

Thank you to the following businesses and organizations for hosting activities at our festival:

Aldea, Be Kind, Career Point North Bay, Claro/a-Up Valley Family Center, Healing Bound, Jeannie Hutton-Integrative Wellness, Loving Animals Providing Smiles, Leslie Silver Acupuncture Services, Mentis, Napa County Library, Napa Nuts, Napa Valley Painting, Napa Valley Photobooth Rental, Napa Valley Education Foundation, Redwood Credit Union, Sexual Education Justice Project, Team Morales Events, Trader Joe’s, VOICES-On the Move, Yoga Therapy Napa Valley