‘Family Wellness Fair’ Focuses on Mental Health

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Rep. Judy Chu (front, right) presents Certificates of Congressional Recognition on Jan. 11 at Orange Grove Park to Christian Montoya (front, third from right) and the South Pas High Tiger Health Club. Bailey Negrete (front, second from right) and Montoya are co-presidents of the club. Chu recognized the students for organizing the First Annual Family Wellness Fair to bring together resources in mental health.  Photos by Sally Kilby

“Christian, what level of school are you in?” Rep. Judy Chu asked as she took the podium Saturday at a “First Annual Family Wellness Fair’’ at Orange Grove Park — an event organized by local high-school students that was aimed at informing the public about resources in mental health.

“I’m a senior,” replied Christian Montoya, a student at South Pasadena High School who was seated among a small group gathered to hear the congresswoman speak.

“You’re a senior in high school, and you … organized this whole [fair]?’’ Chu asked. “I think that’s amazing, because it’s not often that you have students who are able to get the whole community together for such a good cause.”

(Notably, Montoya also managed to obtain a commitment from Chu, a busy congresswoman whose 27th district includes South Pasadena, to speak at the event.)

The cause, Chu said, “was to make everybody aware of what mental-health resources there are and make it apparent that we want to help.”

“There is far too much of a stigma in our community about getting help for mental-health issues,” said Chu, who is a psychologist by profession. She thanked Montoya for bringing many important resources together in one place.

Fair participants took advantage of “Yoga with Jaroch” in the city’s Club Med facility during the First Annual Family Wellness Fair.

“This is a special issue for me,” Chu said. “So when I went to Congress, I wanted to make sure that we provided more resources for mental-health services.”

Chu said these services are now mandated as part of the Affordable Care Act. In addition, she said, she has introduced a number of acts to increase the number of counselors, social workers and psychologists in schools and to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness.

She said there is progress, “and this family wellness fair is one of those great steps forward.”

The fair took place from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. behind the city Recreation Building at 815 Mission St., adjacent to Orange Grove Park. Representatives of approximately a dozen agencies staffed tables around the perimeter of the paved play area. The program listed almost 20 participating organizations.

Vendors displayed a wide array of flyers, brochures, workshop schedules, newsletters and other documents. The materials contained detailed information about services often unknown to the general public but essential to individuals with mental-health issues and their friends and families.

Services included mindfulness training, suicide prevention, support groups and peer-to-peer counseling. Also included was information about inpatient and outpatient hospital mental-health care, transitional-age youth outreach, disability advocacy and programs from the county, the City of Pasadena and nonprofit organizations.

Two student-led groups at South Pasadena High School focus on mental-health and stress reduction, Montoya said.

An audience of approximately 50, including agency representatives, listened to Chu’s remarks. Those from several organizations said approximately 20 people stopped at their tables during the fair to inquire about services.

The fair also featured a yoga workshop and remarks about stress and anxiety by Nalini Mattai, M.D., Huntington Family Medicine.

Montoya, who grew up in South Pasadena and has attended South Pasadena schools, came up with the idea of hosting the resource fair. 

Dayanara Caceres (left), crisis counselor, and Sandra Rodriguez, training and outreach coordinator, provide information about services available through the Didi Hirsch Suicide Prevention Center.

“I wanted it to be focused on youth,” he said in an interview before the event, “because I noticed there isn’t that much mental health awareness in the city.”

There are a couple of resources at the high school,” he said, “but not many students really value them. I know that mental health is a huge issue at the high school.”

“I wanted to take charge of this because no one else is,” he added.

Montoya said he plans to become a psychiatrist.

“I thought this would be a good way to jump-start my career,” he said, “and to invest time into the community.”

Montoya and Tiger Health, a school club with approximately 16 members,  spent about a year organizing the event, he said. He and fellow student Bailey Negrete are the club’s co-chairs.

Montoya attended a Mental Health Day in Pasadena last May. Through Salina Corral, chair of the Pasadena Mental Health Advisory Committee, he was able to identify agencies to invite to the South Pasadena event.

Chu presented Montoya and the Tiger Health Club with certificates of recognition for their efforts to organize the fair.

Montoya graduates this spring but will remain in the area to attend Pasadena City College. He plans to continue organizing the event. He also hopes that “the city will realize this is a good thing and we’ll get funding.”

For information about organizations at the fair and others in the area, go to https://cityofpasadena.libguides.com/consumerhealth and click on 2019 Pasadena Mental Health Resources Guide.