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New Blue Sky programs focus on youth mental health during crisis

Increased funding, social media platform
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Posted at 8:29 AM, Jun 09, 2020

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Kids and teens struggling with their mental health during the Coronavirus Pandemic and weeks of protests over racial injustice have a new way to cope.

BlueShield CA has expanded its Blue Sky program, increasing funding to local mental health organizations and giving kids a platform to share tips on dealing with anxiety and depression.

"There's a greater need now than ever," says Blue Sky Program Manager Amanda Lasik. "There's a greater need to speak to youth voices and listen and learn from what's going on."

According to the CDC, 7.1% of kids age 3-17 have been diagnosed with anxiety, and 3.2% of kids in the same age group have been diagnosed with depression. Experts believe those numbers will rise because of the pandemic and protests.

As part of the expansion, Blue Sky partnered with DoSomething.org to launch the "New State of Mind" campaign.

Kids send tips for coping to the website, which get published through emails, texts, and social media.

"The response has been overwhelming," says Lasik. "When we were originally planning this campaign, we thought it'd be great if we got about 17,000 tips. We've already received over 60,000."

In addition to the "New State of Mind" effort, Blue Sky has provided $300,000 to 18 youth organizations in San Diego and Alameda county. The money has helped them adapt their services to the challenges of the past few months.

"It's been a quick transition, but these groups are now offering counseling online, doing arts programming online, and engaging young people online in different ways," says Lasik.

"We've also heard from the nonprofit community that they just need a little bit of operating support."

The money is in addition to the $10 million that BlueShield pledged as part of the Blue Sky initiative last December.

RELATED: South Bay schools partner with insurance company to address student mental health challenges

For high school student Joel Castro, connecting with these programs has been empowering.

"It gives me hope," says Castro. "It's great to see other young people get very passionate about issues and wanting to fix them."