Dignity Health Cultural Trauma and Mental Health Resiliency Project

A group of young people sit in a circle in a group therapy scenario 

Dignity Health is addressing mental health wellbeing among at-risk youth through prevention and early intervention in Southern California through a new project that combines the efforts of multiple care sites and agencies to address the health needs of the community outside of the hospitals’ walls.

Launched in 2019, the Cultural Trauma and Mental Health Resiliency Project is a joint effort among Dignity Health’s six Southern California hospitals working in tandem to respond to a community health needs assessment priority. The project will increase the capacity of local community organizations and community members to identify mental distress, address the impacts of trauma, and increase resiliency via delivery of mental health awareness education.

The project is possible thanks to $1.9 million in funding over three and a half years, secured through Dignity Health Foundation, from UniHealth Foundation together with funding and in-kind resources from the Good Hope Medical Foundation, the hospitals’ community grant programs, Dignity Health, and Dignity Health Foundation.

Why is this needed? Poor mental health, a frequently disabling condition, affects 20 percent of youth ages 13-18, with 50 percent of lifetime cases of serious emotional disturbances beginning by age 14 and 75 percent by age 24.1 Across the U.S., suicide and homicide are among the leading causes of death for young people, 15-24 years old.2,3 African American and Latinx youth are at higher risk.

The resiliency project focuses on children and youth living in Los Angeles County and San Bernardino neighborhoods in the hospitals’ service areas with high health disparities, especially those affected by poverty, racism, adverse childhood experiences, and violence.

Dignity Health’s six Southern California hospitals will:

  • Award performance-based grants to qualified local non-profit organizations to execute prevention and early intervention behavioral health strategies in a culturally- and linguistically-responsive manner;
  • Arrange and provide training to grantees and select hospital staff in mental health awareness and suicide prevention – using the Mental Health First Aid and Youth Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) and Question, Persuade and Refer (QPR) curricula;
  • Collaborate with grantee organizations in their outreach and delivery of MHFA and QPR to parents, coaches, teachers, faith community leaders and others who work with youth to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental illness, suicidality and addiction, and to provide an evidence-based framework for assisting youth in distress. More than 4,000 individuals are expected to receive training over the next three years;
  • Work with the Los Angeles County Departments of Mental Health and Public Health to coordinate with their mental health awareness education initiatives, and with public and non-profit agencies in San Bernardino County to ensure the project aligns with and strengthens related efforts to address youth mental health; and
  • Identify appropriate ways to integrate MHFA and QPR into the hospitals and raise ability to identify, respond, and refer children and youth with mental health distress.

An independent evaluation will measure the project’s efficacy in increasing local capacity for youth-focused prevention programming, services and resources, while also gauging its impact on decreasing stigma related to mental illness and/or substance use disorders.

For more information, contact Dr. Lynn Yonekura, project champion, at M.L.Yonekura@DignityHealth.org or your hospital’s community health director.

1 https://www.nami.org/NAMI/media/NAMI-Media/Infographics/Children-MH-Facts-NAMI.pdf
2 https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hus/2017/020.pdf
3 https://www.kidsdata.org/topic/660/childdeaths-age-cause/bar#fmt=939&loc=2,364,366&tf=84&pdist=18&ch=446,530,531,1324,533,532,534,529&sort=loc