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Ozomatli and Rep. Napolitano Draw Attention to Youth Mental Health at Cerritos College

November 10, 2011
Press Release

Today, Rep. Grace F. Napolitano and widely-acclaimed Los Angeles band Ozomatli led a student roundtable at Cerritos College to draw attention to the need for youth mental health services.

“The mental health needs of our young people are not being met,” Napolitano said. “Too many students lack access to mental health services and struggle with their issues alone. Studies show that professional mental health assistance can help our students feel happier, stay on track in school, and avoid the serious problems that can arise when issues go untreated. We must invest in mental health services to help the next generation meet their full potential.”

“Dealing with all of the challenges in life is not something we should have to do on our own,” said Raul Pacheco, singer and guitar player for Ozomatli. “It is important to have the right mental health resources available to help young people through difficult times with as much dignity as possible.”

“Good mental health helps us with relationships, with family and friends, and allows us to focus and do our work,” said Samantha Shepherd, President of the Cerritos College chapter of student mental health group Active Minds.

Ozomatli credits group therapy for much the success they have experienced over their 15 year career. Band members Raul Pacheco and Ulises Bella encouraged the students present to seek mental health care if needed, saying not to be too ashamed or embarrassed to ask for help because of the stigma associated with mental health.

One out of five U.S. children and adolescents currently suffer from some form of mental health disorder. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among college-age students.

Napolitano is the co-chair of the Congressional Mental Health Caucus and the author of H.R. 751, the Mental Health in Schools Act, which would create grant funding for schools across the country to partner with local nonprofits to provide on-site, culturally and linguistically appropriate mental health services for students. A local program she established in 14 Los Angeles County schools recently marked its ten-year anniversary.

Ozomatli are members of the Mental Health in Schools Act Task Force, a group of prominent figures organized by Napolitano who work to reduce the stigma against mental health and increase the availability of mental health services for young people. The band has also served as worldwide Cultural Ambassadors for the U.S. State Department and has supported many humanitarian causes.

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