Like many high schoolers, students at Dozier-Libbey Medical High School in Antioch, California, are unsure about their career moves post-graduation. With the help of a mentorship program led by Kaiser Permanente Northern California’s Mental Health Training Program, these students are getting a window into the behavioral health medical profession.
“Everyone has a different path in life, and my mentor allowed me to see the huge variety of pathways available to me,” said 18-year-old Syncere Jordan. “She told me what it took to get where she is today and what the day-to-day responsibilities of a health care worker are.”
Kaiser Permanente Northern California partnered with the 800-student high school last year to create a mentorship program in which 12 students meet virtually every week for 30 minutes with a mental health provider to talk about career pathways, resumes, college, and the realities of working as a mental health professional.
“I really appreciate the diversity the program allows,” said 16-year-old Emma Mauri. “My mentor and I have talked about everything from life skills, to education, to just telling stories. She’s inspired me to stop being so nervous about the decisions I’m facing about the future of my career.”
Giving back to student and mentor
Reflecting Kaiser Permanente’s core commitment to support mental health and wellness in the communities it serves, every mental health trainee of the Mental Health Training Program is required to complete over 30 hours of community outreach. The outreach focuses on improving the mental health of the local community in some important respect, beyond treating Kaiser Permanente members.
The mentors said educating young people on the importance of mental health and helping guide their future has been very fulfilling.
“My mentor and I have talked about everything from life skills, to education, to just telling stories. She’s inspired me to stop being so nervous about the decisions I’m facing about the future of my career.” – Emma Mauri
“As a first-generation Mexican American and first in my family to graduate college, I’m incredibly passionate about supporting these young people and creating awareness around the complex experiences of being a first-generation student,” said Irais Castro, PhD, a psychology postdoctoral resident at Kaiser Permanente Antioch.
“It’s important to foster these student’s interest in mental health or whichever field they are interested in,” said Nicole Wilberding, PhD, a psychology postdoctoral resident at Kaiser Permanente Walnut Creek. “We encourage them to talk about their concerns and fears so they don’t feel overwhelmed about their future.”
Increasing awareness of mental health care
A goal of the 8-week mentorship program is to increase awareness about the field of clinical psychology and mental health among diverse youth populations. Kaiser Permanente shares in the U.S. challenge to meet the demand for mental health care that has been greatly exacerbated by the national shortage of trained mental health professionals.
Although many of the students involved in the mentorship program had not considered a career in mental health, some of them said they are now interested in learning more about the profession as a possible career choice.
Kathryn Wetzler, PsyD, regional director of Mental Health Training Programs, said, “It’s really valuable to identify the young people who are interested in mental health as a career and provide them with the understanding of what being a mental health professional is all about.”
Castro explained that it’s a vital time to educate people about the importance of mental health as a profession.
“We need more clinicians of color and diverse populations in the field, so I am grateful to have the opportunity to create awareness of the need.”
For Jordan, who is 3 months away from graduating high school, her relationship with her mentor is a “bond I will never forget and hope to continue after I graduate.”
Learn more about the Northern California Mental Health Training Program.