How Jennifer Siebel Newsom turned a champion of youth psychological well being

How Jennifer Siebel Newsom turned a champion of youth psychological well being

Health Professional
Credit score: Jennifer Siebel Newsom / Fb

Jennifer Siebel Newsom

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First associate Jennifer Siebel Newsom has spent many years spotlighting, analyzing and uplifting the psychological well-being of younger individuals. However 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When Siebel Newsom was 6 years outdated, her older sister died in an accident, leaving her to navigate grief and emotional upheaval at a younger age.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 baby who’s skilled loss and trauma, like so many California kids have endured in the course of the pandemic.

“I feel we went to remedy as soon as (after my sister died), after which it was like, transfer on, every part’s wonderful, we’re simply going to faux like nothing occurred,” she stated in a current interview with EdSource, her eyes filling with tears. “And that was traumatic to lose your greatest pal and your sister. So I’ve at all times recognized that, with out your psychological well being, what do you might 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 centered on psychological well being, fairness, gender and associated matters, beginning in 2011 with “Miss Illustration” about how depictions of girls are too usually centered on magnificence and sexuality, and the affect on younger individuals. “The Masks You Dwell In,” launched in 2015, seems to be at how boys wrestle with expectations round masculinity. In 2020, “The Nice American Lie” examined racial and earnings inequality within the U.S. Most just lately, “Truthful Play” focuses on the difficulties girls face as they try to stability work and residential lives.

Past the digital camera, Siebel Newsom has been a persistent, outspoken advocate in her husband’s administration for college students experiencing trauma, anxiousness, despair and different emotional hardships. This 12 months the Newsom administration put aside $4.7 billion for youth psychological well being applications 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 applications, together with:

  • 40,000 new faculty counselors and different psychological well being professionals.
  • Neighborhood colleges that supply 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 suggestions for fogeys.

As first associate, 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 Schooling, praised Siebel Newsom’s “constant and insistent” efforts on behalf of California’s kids, households and academics. 

She has huge empathy for the traumatic experiences younger individuals and their households skilled in the course of the pandemic and has been instrumental in organizing consciousness round these points in addition to assets for social-emotional helps and practices for colleges,” Darling-Hammond stated. “She holds a vibrant imaginative and prescient for whole-child, whole-family, whole-community schooling techniques that really nurture all college students in order that they will thrive — feeding their our bodies with nutritious meals, their minds with alternatives for deep inquiry, and their hearts with a way 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 Affiliation of College Counselors.

“She is aware of absolutely effectively that complete psychological well being providers in California colleges have been insufficient. Whereas the governor’s current funding will add further faculty counselors to the workforce, there shall be a good higher have to entry movies and curriculum help materials similar to Siebel Newsom’s documentary sequence,” Whitson stated. “(We) would like to work along with her and help her efforts.” 

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

 “I needed to be taught to floor (them), and myself too. It actually helped,” she instructed a current convention of counselors and college directors in Napa. “When kids expertise these challenges, now we have to understand it’s not their fault. … As a dad or mum, there’s nothing worse than seeing your little one in ache and feeling powerless to assist.”

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 in the course of the pandemic, gathering concepts for what may assist households address faculty closures, quarantines, lack of family members and different hardships. She heard repeatedly about kids’s expertise habit — younger individuals who hardly ever left their rooms as a result of they had been glued to their telephones, or spent numerous hours a day gaming, or had been consumed by social media, or had utterly disengaged from their households and associates.  

At the side of a bunch she based, California Companions Venture, she used the data to create toolkits for households, colleges and others to assist kids overcome expertise habit. 

“I’m at all times going be the particular person to say that the elephant within the room is expertise habit and social media habit and every part that comes with that,” she instructed EdSource. “Our children’ brains are nonetheless plastic and never absolutely set, and so they’re being manipulated by this expertise that’s creating extra isolation and disconnecting us from one another and relationships. So we knew we needed to tackle that in a holistic means.”

One in all 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 College grant program, a $60 million initiative to pay for varsity gardens, cooking courses and different tasks to deliver more healthy, brisker meals to colleges and train kids the place their meals comes from.

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

Amy Cranston, govt director of the Social Emotional Studying 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 are able to see from her documentary work, she is keenly conscious and knowledgeable of those vital points we face as a society,” Cranston stated. “We’re so grateful for the help of each her and the governor’s workplace in acknowledging the very important position this performs in pupil success, in class 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.”

Because 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 expertise use, and a common improve in vitriol and polarization, she stated she feels a way of urgency about her job and the stakes for California’s kids.

“It is a public well being emergency,” she stated. “Contemplating what’s occurring within the nation and the world, it’s vital that California succeeds proper now. And that begins with the well-being— of our kids.”

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