Coachella Youth Lead Conversation on Mental Health and Violence

By: Paulina Rojas

Palm Desert, Calif. — Students from the Coachella Valley High School health academy and the school’s Active Minds club hosted a conversation about mental health and violence in America on Thursday night at the Cal State San Bernardino, Palm Desert Campus.

Some of the panelists who participated in the forum were Riverside County District Attorney Michael Hestrin, Desert Hot Springs Chief of Police Dale Mondary, 42nd District Assemblyman Chad Mayes and James Alan Fox  the interim director of the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Northeastern University.

The forum was moderated by former Palm Springs Mayor Ron Oden.

Although he was not able to attend the event, 56th District Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia met with some of the students beforehand to help them draft up questions for the forum.

“For young people to lead this conversation is really important,” he said. “It is really great that they did this.”

The idea for the forum came from conversations that the students were already having in the classroom.

“We saw a need for there to be some discussion about mental health and what we are doing to move in a good direction,” Nicole Aguirre, HOSA and Active Minds advisor said.

Panelists discussed what can be done to prevent violence and what are the connections to mental health disorders. Photo: Paulina Rojas/Coachella Unincorporated
Panelists discussed what can be done to prevent violence and what are the connections to mental health disorders. Photo: Paulina Rojas/Coachella Unincorporated

Active Minds provides resources to students regarding mental health, so that they can be a resource for other students and the community at large.

“Today’s event was about opening up a conversation about mental health issues that we have in our community and how they relate to violence” Aguirre said.“Also to open up a conversation on what we are doing as a community to prevent acts of violence that are related to mental health.”

Some of the questions that panelists answered during the forum regarded access to firearms, safety protocols at schools and the services available to inmates dealing with mental health disorders.

The experts agreed that while not all acts of violence are directly linked to mental health issues, it is definitely something that should be addressed and considered.

Aguirre said she hoped the event also inspired some of her students to become mental health professionals.  

“We see a need for more individuals in the mental health field as a profession and we are hoping that some of our students will choose to go into the mental health field,” she said.

About the author:

PRojas 1Paulina Rojas joined Coachella Uninc. as a beat reporter in February 2016 after working as a city reporter in the eastern Coachella Valley for more than a year. Although born and raised in New York City, Paulina feels right at home in the eastern Coachella Valley. She loves the warmth of the people and buying fresh bread from her favorite bakery in downtown Coachella. Paulina is a graduate of the University of Houston, and her work has appeared in The Las Vegas Review – Journal, The Houston Chronicle, HelloGiggles and Vivala. View her author page here.

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