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Closing the Mental Health Gap

Friends–Seattle staff and community experts discuss how COVID-19 has impacted our youth

Tuesday, May 4th | 10-11 AM

Virtual Panel Discussion

When COVID-19 spread across the world, it took us all by surprise. Among the many negative impacts of the pandemic is the effect it has had on our young people, who were ripped from their daily routines of school and social connection. Research has shown higher suicide rates and a country-wide mental health crisis among children and adolescents. At Friends of the Children–Seattle, our professional mentors and program leadership have identified that youth mental health is a number-one priority. Many of the youth in our program are feeling disconnected from school and friends while also coping with the uncertainty looming in the future.

Our panelists will address why COVID-19 has had such a negative impact on youth, how increased racism has impacted mental health for young people of color during this time, and how our professional mentors have responded to this crisis.

Meet our Panelists:

Sophia Moreno

Program Lead and K-5 Professional Mentor, Friends of the Children-Seattle

Sophia was born and raised in Washington and has been a K-5 professional mentor at Friends of the Children Seattle for four years. She discovered her passion for youth development, advocacy, and community engagement through life experience and a term and a half as an Americorps VISTA volunteer. Sophia is currently a student at Seattle Central College and will be graduating in June with a degree in Applied Behavioral Science. Recently promoted to a Program Lead Position at Friends of the Children, Sophia is excited to build community at Friends and continue serving youth and families in the greater Seattle area.

Jenn Nguyen-So

Trauma-Informed Care Program Manager, Department of Children, Youth & Families

My name is Jenn So and I am a licensed Social Worker Associate Independent.

I am a first generation immigrant refugee family from Vietnam/Cambodia living in America. Raised in Washington, I received my undergraduate degree at Western Washington University in Human Services. My graduate degree from University of Washington Masters of Social Work Program. I’ve spend over 13 years working as a professional Social Worker for various institutions both government and community based, serving my community. It was always my life-long dream to be in private practice specializing in Trauma-Informed Care and aid in healing from Racial Trauma, Adverse Childhood Experiences, Survivors of Trauma, Intimate Partner Violence, and so much more. I will assist you through deep explorations around your truths, validate and support you moving towards being healing-centered while deeply rooted in self-love, body positivity, and resiliency.

Ray Soriano, MSW

Social Worker, Therapeutic Program Facilitator

Ray Soriano, MSW (he/him/his) is a parent and professional who is committed to creating a safe, inclusive, healing, and just world for children and families, through his work in community and state organizations for over 30 years. Ray’s experience includes early childhood education, child welfare, parent education and support, children’s grief and healing work, childhood trauma prevention and response, and facilitating drumming and music in schools and youth programs. A first-generation immigrant of Filipino heritage, Ray values diverse communities and lifts up anti-racism, inclusive practices and policies, language access, and social justice for marginalized people. Ray is grateful to live, work, and play on the traditional lands of the Tulalip and other Coast Salish people, in Everett, WA.

Janis Whitlock, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Senior Director for Knowledge and Advising, JED Foundation

Janis Whitlock has worked in the area of adolescent and young adult mental health, resilience and wellbeing for over 30 years. She is dedicated to bridging science, practice, and lived experience wisdom in ways that inform, enhance and support the human capacity to thrive. She has experience as a frontline provider and program developer and, for the past two decades, as a researcher, educator, author, and public speaker in these and related areas. As the founder and director of the Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury and Recovery and the co-founder of the International Society for the Study of Self-Injury, she has deep expertise in areas of self-injury and related mental health challenges, including suicide, depression and anxiety. She has also studied and written about connectedness, resilience, the role of social media in mental health and prevention, and sexual health. She earned a doctorate in Developmental Psychology from Cornell University, a Masters of Public Health from UNC Chapel Hill, and a BA from the University of California at Berkeley.

Moderated by:

Pamila Gant

Youth Development Consultant

Combining her experience in college admissions, scholarship management and student advising, Pamila joined the College Success Foundation in 2001 as the College Relations Officer. In this role, she established the college mentoring program for the Achievers Scholarship Program that was adopted and implemented at over thirty college campuses throughout Washington state. She is a staunch believer in mentoring. She joined MENTOR Washington (MW) in 2008 to work as a the Outreach and Training Officer until 2019. Over the eleven years, she worked with MW, she has gained a wealth of experience especially when working with marginalized communities.

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