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How Jennifer Siebel Newsom grew to become a champion of youth psychological well being

Credit: Jennifer Siebel Newsom / Facebook

Jennifer Siebel Newsom

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First companion Jennifer Siebel Newsom has spent many years spotlighting, analyzing and uplifting the psychological well-being of younger individuals. But for her, the subject transcends skilled duties. It’s private.

When Siebel Newsom was 6 years outdated, her older sister died in an accident, leaving her to navigate grief and emotional upheaval at a younger age. She is aware of firsthand, she stated, what it feels prefer to be a toddler who’s skilled loss and trauma, like so many California kids have endured throughout the pandemic.

“I think we went to therapy once (after my sister died), and then it was like, move on, everything’s fine, we’re just going to pretend like nothing happened,” she stated in a latest interview with EdSource, her eyes filling with tears. “And that was traumatic to lose your best friend and your sister. So I’ve always known that, without your mental health, what do you have?”

Siebel Newsom went on to school, incomes an MBA, after which labored in Hollywood for just a few years earlier than turning her expertise to documentary filmmaking. She’s produced 4 award-winning documentaries targeted on psychological well being, fairness, gender and associated subjects, beginning in 2011 with “Miss Representation” about how depictions of girls are too typically targeted on magnificence and sexuality, and the influence on younger individuals. “The Mask You Live In,” launched in 2015, appears at how boys wrestle with expectations round masculinity. In 2020, “The Great American Lie” examined racial and revenue inequality within the U.S. Most lately, “Fair Play” focuses on the difficulties girls face as they try and steadiness work and residential lives.

Beyond the digital camera, Siebel Newsom has been a persistent, outspoken advocate in her husband’s administration for college kids experiencing trauma, anxiousness, despair and different emotional hardships. This yr the Newsom administration put aside $4.7 billion for youth psychological well being packages in California, regarded as the nation’s largest-ever funding within the emotional well-being of kids.

The cash will go towards a slew of packages, together with:

  • 40,000 new faculty counselors and different psychological well being professionals.
  • Community colleges that provide social providers to college students and their households.
  • Streamlined Medi-Cal protection for younger individuals to obtain free psychological well being providers.
  • A one-stop on-line hub for youth psychological well being providers that features hotlines, movies and tips for folks.

As first companion, Siebel Newsom has pushed for improved vitamin in colleges, higher entry to the outside for youngsters and different initiatives associated to youth well-being. 

Linda Darling-Hammond, president of the State Board of Education, praised Siebel Newsom’s “consistent and insistent” efforts on behalf of California’s kids, households and academics. 

She has enormous empathy for the traumatic experiences young people and their families experienced during the pandemic and has been instrumental in organizing awareness around these issues as well as resources for social-emotional supports and practices for schools,” Darling-Hammond stated. “She holds a vibrant vision for whole-child, whole-family, whole-community education systems that truly nurture all students so that they can thrive — feeding their bodies with nutritious food, their minds with opportunities for deep inquiry, and their hearts with a sense of belonging, acceptance and love.” 

Siebel Newsom’s efforts are particularly welcome after so a few years of funding shortfalls in California for psychological well being providers, stated Loretta Whitson, director of the California Association of School Counselors.

“She knows fully well that comprehensive mental health services in California schools have been inadequate. While the governor’s recent investment will add additional school counselors to the workforce, there will be an even greater need to access films and curriculum support material such as Siebel Newsom’s documentary series,” Whitson stated. “(We) would love to work with her and support her efforts.” 

Siebel Newsom can be a mom of 4 who, like most dad and mom, skilled the anguish of watching her kids endure via emotional misery throughout the pandemic. 

 “I had to learn to ground (them), and myself too. It really helped,” she informed a latest convention of counselors and college directors in Napa. “When children experience these challenges, we have to realize it’s not their fault. … As a parent, there’s nothing worse than seeing your child in pain and feeling powerless to help.”

Her personal experiences, in addition to these of different dad and mom, have helped form her advocacy efforts. In 2021, Siebel Newsom toured the state listening to folks’ frustrations and challenges throughout the pandemic, gathering concepts for what may assist households deal with faculty closures, quarantines, lack of family members and different hardships. She heard repeatedly about kids’s know-how habit — younger individuals who hardly ever left their rooms as a result of they have been glued to their telephones, or spent numerous hours a day gaming, or have been consumed by social media, or had fully disengaged from their households and buddies.  

In conjunction with a bunch she based, California Partners Project, she used the knowledge to create toolkits for households, colleges and others to assist kids overcome know-how habit. 

“I’m always going be the person to say that the elephant in the room is technology addiction and social media addiction and everything that comes with that,” she informed EdSource. “Our kids’ brains are still plastic and not fully set, and they’re being manipulated by this technology that’s creating more isolation and disconnecting us from each other and relationships. So we knew we had to address that in a holistic way.”

One of her options to those challenges is to get younger individuals outdoors extra, and to eat more-nutritious meals. She was a chief backer of the state’s Farm to School grant program, a $60 million initiative to pay for college gardens, cooking courses and different initiatives to carry more healthy, more energizing meals to varsities and train kids the place their meals comes from.

To encourage kids to get outdoors extra, she spearheaded the California State Parks Adventure Pass, which supplies free admission to all California fourth graders and their households at 19 state parks, and the California State Library Parks Pass, which gives free car passes to state parks out there for check-out with a library card. 

Amy Cranston, govt director of the Social Emotional Learning Alliance for California, stated Siebel Newsom’s advocacy has helped draw consideration to the youth psychological well being disaster and promote wellness in colleges.

“As we can see from her documentary work, she is keenly aware and informed of these critical issues we face as a society,” Cranston stated. “We are so grateful for the support of both her and the governor’s office in acknowledging the vital role this plays in student success, in school and in life.”

Darling-Hammond stated that Siebel Newsom ​​”cares in regards to the state’s 6 million kids with the identical sense of concern and compassion she holds for her personal 4.”

As the governor’s spouse, Siebel Newsom feels she is in a singular place to merge her private curiosity in younger individuals’s well-being with insurance policies that attain common Californians. With the pandemic, the surge in youth know-how use, and a common enhance in vitriol and polarization, she stated she feels a way of urgency about her job and the stakes for California’s kids.

“This is a public health emergency,” she stated. “Considering what’s going on in the country and the world, it’s critical that California succeeds right now. And that starts with the well-being— of our children.”

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Carolyn Jones 2019 sq small


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