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Mental Health Is Health

SYLC's Mental Health Is Health campaign aims to destigmatize the spectrum of mental health challenges, normalize asking for help, encourage adults to be aware of signs of mental health decline in youth and respond with urgency and appropriate resources, and illuminate how systems of oppression and inequity can impact individuals' mental health. 

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SYLC developed this campaign in response to an uptick in youth mental health decline during and following the pandemic. What we notice in our peers and community members is supported by data--according to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 42% of youth felt so sad or hopeless that they stopped doing usual activities in 2021, and the American Academy of Pediatrics recently declared a national emergency in child and adolescent mental health. Youth often have a difficult time reaching out for help and face barriers in accessing support. Additionally, Sitka mental health providers have shared that they are over capacity, as there’s an uptick in need for services.

​In recognition of this crisis, individuals can cultivate their wellbeing, adults and mentors can be safe harbors of support for struggling youth, and we, as a community, can remove dangerous obstacles and provide a safe raft to decrease the risk of individuals facing mental health challenges. 

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Cultivate Wellbeing 

Mental health is like a garden: growing, flourishing, changing, and wilting. It’s in constant flux depending on the seasons, weather, and soil conditions. Similarly, many factors contribute to one’s emotional wellbeing or decline. Mental health is not about feeling good all the time, but being able to process everything that life throws at you.


Without tending to our garden, mental health challenges can worsen, resulting in harm to ourselves or others. Knowing where to seek support is critical in cultivating a healthy environment for growing strong, resilient roots. No one has to struggle alone or hide behind the shadows of mental health challenges.

Tending to our mental health is just as important as caring for our physical health. It's a key part of our overall wellbeing that requires attention and care.​ It's crucial to acknowledge that it's normal to struggle and find healthy ways to process and manage our mental state as an important part of self care. ​


Mental health challenges can have profound impacts on individuals' lives, affecting their ability to work, engage in social activities, and maintain healthy relationships.​ Recognizing the signs of mental health decline in ourselves and others is the first step towards creating a supportive environment where everyone can feel understood and cared for. So let's change the stigma around mental health and treat it how we would our physical health!​

Caring for Your Mental Health

If you're struggling with mental health challenges, remember that you are not alone and there are various steps you can take to cultivate your wellbeing. Here are a few:

  • Acknowledge how you're feeling

  • Develop a mental health safety plan

  • Stay connected

    • Talk to a trusted friend or family member

    • Surround yourself with people who care about you

  • Practice mindfulness and relaxation

  • Care for your physical health​​​ with: 

    • Enough sleep​

    • Proper nutrition

    • Exercise

  • Reach out for help (see resources)


Common Mental Illnesses

In Sitka, like many other communities, the most prevalent mental health issues include depression, anxiety, and PTSD. If you want to learn more about the most prevalent mental health issues in Sitka, here are some links to learn more!


Be a Harbor of Support

The ocean is an unpredictable element: waves crash, storms surge, and emergencies can happen. We as a community need to be prepared to respond when someone is in distress, whether that be an emergency on the water or a mental health crisis. Recognizing
the signals and flares is the first step in helping our kids and one another navigate rough waters and avoid rocky shores.

Noticing the signs of mental health issues is a responsibility that falls on all of us, but adults, especially, play a crucial role.

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Youth who have positive connections to adult mentors show better outcomes overall as they grow and develop. According to the 2023 School Climate and Connectedness Survey, most Sitka youth have positive connections with adults: 74% of students agreed that they have at least one adult at school who they feel comfortable talking to about things that are bothering them; 85% of students can name at least five adults who really care about them. Adults in our community are already connected to youth and can be harbors of support if they're vigilant and knowledgeable about warning signs and prepared to provide support and resources.

Signals and Flares

Adults should be attentive to subtle shifts in teens' behavior that may indicate mental health decline, such as:​

  • Persistent sadness or irritability

  • Overwhelming feelings of shame and guilt

  • Changes in sleep patterns, appetite, or energy levels

  • Struggling to focus

  • Decline in school performance or attendance

  • Withdrawing from friends or activities

  • Difficulty communicating or maintaining relationships

How to Help

Once you notice a young person struggling, you can respond to distress by: 

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Remove Obstacles; Provide a Safe Raft

Some rivers are harsher than others: rocks, rapids, and unfamiliar terrain can make navigation difficult. While society often blames people for struggling, it’s important to recognize that not everyone has access to the tools and resources necessary to navigate life’s twists and turns. With the right gear and conditions, paddlers can determine their direction. Without it, they’re subjected to the whims of a harsh environment. Rather than faulting the individual, communities can work together to address the factors that contribute to mental health decline.

Struggling with mental health is not a personal flaw, and may be a product of one's environment. Systems of oppression and inequity make surviving in a world that has varying obstacles difficult and can impact mental health. Addressing mental health effectively requires an approach that includes changes at the individual, community and systemic levels.

Coloring Pages

Download and print these coloring pages to further reflect on the messages or as an opportunity to practice self care!

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