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

First associate Jennifer Siebel Newsom has spent a long time spotlighting, analyzing and uplifting the psychological well-being of younger folks.

However for her, the subject transcends skilled duties. It is private.

When Siebel Newsom was 6 years previous, 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 mentioned, what it feels wish to be a baby who’s skilled loss and trauma, like so many California youngsters have endured in the course of the pandemic.

“I believe we went to remedy as soon as (after my sister died), after which it was like, transfer on, every little thing’s positive, we’re simply going to fake like nothing occurred,” she mentioned in a current interview with EdSource, her eyes filling with tears. “And that was traumatic to lose your greatest good friend and your sister. So I’ve at all times recognized that, with out your psychological well being, what do you’ve?”

Siebel Newsom went on to school, incomes an MBA, after which labored in Hollywood for just a few years earlier than turning her abilities 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 Illustration” about how depictions of girls are too typically targeted on magnificence and sexuality, and the affect on younger folks.

“The Masks You Reside In,” launched in 2015, seems to be at how boys battle with expectations round masculinity.

In 2020, “The Nice American Lie” examined racial and earnings inequality within the US Most lately, “Honest Play” focuses on the difficulties ladies face as they try to steadiness work and residential lives.

Past the digicam, 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 yr the Newsom administration put aside $4.7 billion for youth psychological well being packages in California, considered the nation’s largest-ever funding within the emotional well-being of youngsters.

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

  • 40,000 new college counselors and different psychological well being professionals.
  • Group faculties that supply social providers to college students and their households.
  • Streamlined Medi-Cal protection for younger folks 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 folks.

As a primary associate, Siebel Newsom has pushed for improved diet in faculties, 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 youngsters, households and academics.

“She has huge empathy for the traumatic experiences younger folks and their households skilled in the course of the pandemic and has been instrumental in organizing consciousness round these points in addition to sources for social-emotional helps and practices for faculties,” Darling-Hammond mentioned. “She holds a vibrant imaginative and prescient for whole-child, whole-family, whole-community training methods that actually 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, mentioned Loretta Whitson, director of the California Affiliation of Faculty Counselors.

“She is aware of totally properly that complete psychological well being providers in California faculties have been insufficient. Whereas the governor’s current funding will add extra college counselors to the workforce, there will probably be an excellent better must entry movies and curriculum assist materials resembling Siebel Newsom’s documentary collection,” Whitson mentioned. “(We) would like to work together with her and assist her efforts.”

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

“I needed to be taught to floor (them), and myself too. It actually helped,” she informed a current convention of counselors and faculty directors in Napa. “When youngsters expertise these challenges, now we have to appreciate it is not their fault. … As a mother or father, there’s nothing worse than seeing your baby 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 might assist households deal with college closures, quarantines, lack of family members and different hardships. She heard repeatedly about youngsters’s know-how dependancy — 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 utterly disengaged from their households and buddies.

Along side a gaggle she based, California Companions Challenge, she used the knowledge to create toolkits for households, faculties and others to assist youngsters overcome know-how dependancy.

“I am at all times going to be the individual to say that the elephant within the room is know-how dependancy and social media dependancy and every little thing that comes with that,” she informed EdSource. “Our children’ brains are nonetheless plastic and never totally set, and so they’re being manipulated by this know-how that is creating extra isolation and disconnecting us from one another and relationships. So we knew we needed to tackle that in a holistic manner.”

One in all her options to those challenges is to get younger folks exterior extra, and to eat more-nutritious meals. She was a chief backer of the state’s Farm to Faculty grant program, a $60 million initiative to pay for varsity gardens, cooking courses and different initiatives to deliver more healthy, more energizing meals to colleges and educate youngsters the place their meals comes from.

To encourage youngsters to get exterior extra, she spearheaded the California State Parks Journey Move, which provides free admission to all California fourth graders and their households at 19 state parks, and the California State Library Parks Move, which offers free automobile passes to state parks accessible for check-out with a library card. Amy Cranston, government director of the Social Emotional Studying Alliance for California, mentioned Siebel Newsom’s advocacy of hers has helped draw consideration to the youth psychological well being disaster and promote wellness in faculties.

“As we will see from her documentary work, she is keenly conscious and knowledgeable of those vital points we face as a society,” Cranston mentioned. “We’re so grateful for the assist of each her de ella and the governor’s workplace in acknowledging the very important position this performs in scholar success, at school and in life.”

Darling-Hammond mentioned that Siebel Newsom “cares in regards to the state’s 6 million youngsters 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 novel place to merge her private curiosity in younger folks’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 mentioned she feels a way of urgency about her job and the stakes for California’s youngsters.

“This can be a public well being emergency,” she mentioned. “Contemplating what is going on on within the nation and the world, it is vital that California succeeds proper now. And that begins with the well-being– of our kids.”


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