Hillsides Community Blog

10 Essential Mental Health Tips for all Families

happy family watching the sunset on the beach

Editor’s Note: May is Mental Health Awareness month.  We thought it was a great time to ask Hillsides senior clinical manager Paul Inglizian, LCSW, for his top tips on how to keep a family mentally healthy and happy.  Below is his down-to-earth, wise wisdom that all families can use. 

By Alison Bell

How to keep your family mentally healthy and happy?  While there is no foolproof formula, these tips can help you and your family thrive:

Schedule a regular family meeting

Have your family meet once a week or every other week to share feelings and talk out issues. Regular meetings give your family a chance to communicate and connect on a regular basis. You may want to use a “talking stick” to help each member receive equal talking time. Whichever family member holds the stick gets everyone’s undivided attention until he or she is ready to pass it on.

Create family rituals

Many families work so hard and have so many obligations, they forget to have fun. Creating family rituals can bring your family closer together. Schedule a regular pizza night on Thursday evenings or establish a Sunday afternoon family walk. The more enjoyable activities you do together, the more you will enjoy and appreciate each other.

Take time for yourself

Parents give so much to their children that they often feel exhausted and depleted. However, even the best parents can’t give to their children all the time. It’s important to take out time for yourself so you can meet your needs. Go out with friends to a movie, take an art class, or curl up with a good book for an hour or two – whatever brings you joy and replenishes your soul. Taking care of yourself will give you more energy and patience to take care of your kids.

Create a support network

Make sure you have at least one or two people you can turn to in tough times, such as a friend, family member, or neighbor.  Your support system can give you the reassurance, comfort, and friendship you need when you are feeling overwhelmed. If you don’t feel you have a strong support network, work on building one by joining a parenting group, reconnecting with old friends, or starting a new activity with people who share your interests and values.

Be the adult you want your child to become

Our children learn by watching us. Even if we don’t think they are noticing the way we act and what we say, they are. Therefore, the best way to teach positive traits, such as kindness and respect, is by modeling them ourselves. This is not to say you have to be perfect all the time; we’re all human. However, it’s important to keep in mind how much influence we have in shaping our children’s behavior.

Step back from confrontation

If a conversation among family members grows heated, take a break before the discussion escalates even further. Say something like, “Let’s all take a moment to cool down before we talk about this any further.” Give everyone five minutes to regroup, then come back to the conversation. Chances are, by then, everyone will be much calmer and you can work as a team to effectively communicate and problem-solve.

Stay alert to any changes

You know your child best.  If you notice a sudden change in mood, behavior, or performance in school, don’t ignore it. Talk to your child to try to learn the cause of the change. Then, you can come up with an action plan to improve the situation. Let your child know you will continue to be there for him or her in the future. Continue to observe any changes and step in quickly when you see your child needs help.

Be real with your children

Parents think they need to be brave all the time and never show weakness, but that’s not true. It’s normal to show emotions, such as sadness or anxiety. It’s okay, for example, to admit to your child, “I had a bad day at work and don’t feel so great.” Often, simply by expressing how you feel, you will automatically feel better. In addition, being honest with your children validates any emotions they may be feeling and gives them permission to express them.

Practice patience during rocky times

Getting through daily life can be hard enough. Then, when you’re hit with a major stressor, such as the death of a loved one, a change in finances, or a move to a new place, your entire family can become unbalanced. When a change or crisis happens, know that everyone in your family may process the loss or transition differently. Some may also take longer to recover than others. Practice being patient, not only with your family, but with yourself.

Know when to get help

Stress or depression can affect all families and manifest itself in many ways, such as irritability, insomnia, headaches or stomachaches. If you or someone in your family is showing symptoms of distress, first visit a medical doctor to rule out a physical problem. Next, don’t hesitate to reach out and get mental health services, from Hillsides (www.hillsides.org) or another agency.  There are many resources out there to help you, no matter what you are facing. You are never alone.


Why the Latest School Shooting Shows the Need for Both Mental Health Services and Gun Control Measures

The recent school shooting in Highland Ranch, Colorado prompted the community there to gather in a vigil to recall the heroism of one student who perished tackling the shooter, another fellow student. At one point during the vigil, the assembly chanted “mental health” repeatedly, perhaps as a plea for additional mental health services to help address the ubiquitous gun violence that plagues our schools. Nationally, on a weekly basis, there is gun-related violence. Lives senselessly lost and trauma generated. These gun-related tragedies are so common that we no longer seem to be outraged, but rather acquiescent. Demoralized, we no longer cry out for gun control but rather seek additional security and mental health services to mitigate the inevitable tragedy that will touch all of us at some point.

The students that night in Highland Ranch chanted mental health, overwhelmed by a type of tragedy that seems to have no end and promises to escalate. Our children have been robbed of any sense of security; all of us live with the dread of receiving a call notifying us our child has been harmed or worse. This is the price we pay to maintain our constitutional right to bear arms.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Mental illness is the most undiagnosed ailment. Overlooked by many because of the stigma associated with it, mental illness is masked by coping strategies, lack of awareness, isolation, shame, limited availability of services, and often indifference. When treated, those suffering from mental illness can find their pain and sense of alienation eased, and can go on to lead a happy and full life. Treatment can keep those affected with mental illness from desperate acts and spare them and others from harm.

Dealing with mental illness can be overwhelming. For family, friends, and caregivers of those experiencing episodes of mental illness, the ease of access to firearms only adds to a sense of concern. Certainly, advocating for additional resources to increase access to mental health services is critical. Funding through the Mental Health Services Act has provided some needed services through our community-based programs. Soliciting for funding for mental health services in our schools would provide resources desperately needed for fiscally strained education systems.

Although advocating for additional mental health services is important, it does not address the fundamental issue of easy access to firearms. As tempted as we may be to acquiesce, we must not give up calling for reasonable gun control measures if we are serious about securing the safety of our schools and the well-being of our children.

7 Ways to Manage Stress While Wedding Planning

Editor’s Note: May is Mental Health Awareness Month.  Nothing challenges your mental health more than planning a wedding.  Here, one bride-to-be offers her tips for sanity.

Canva - Wedding couple arm in arm (4)

By Lisa Gavitt

Getting engaged to someone you love is one of life’s sweetest moments. Friends, family, colleagues, and even strangers congratulate you and are delighted to share in your joy. When that day came for me a year ago, I felt like the luckiest girl in the world. Nonetheless, I don’t think we had been engaged even 24 hours before the first person asked, “Have you set a date?”, and the planning began. While I was on cloud nine and got butterflies every time I looked down at my left hand, I knew I had my work cut out for me. It is no secret that planning a wedding creates added stress for the bride-to-be, but it doesn’t have to be all sweat and tears. Here are seven tips I have found helpful in managing stress while wedding planning:

Get Organized

Buy a new notebook that is solely dedicated to your wedding plans and have it on hand from Day 1 through the wedding day. This will be your place to write down ideas, advice, research, to-do lists, reminders, etc. With so many decisions to make about venues, caterers, flowers, and invitations, it is easy to forget or misplace information, so let this notebook be your memory. Write it all down. You will thank yourself later.

Take Advantage of Technology

Planning a wedding in 2019 comes with endless online resources to support you in your creative process. Some of my favorites are: Pinterest and Instagram to help spark ideas and make them your own,  The Knot to manage your guest list and free wedding website, and Zola to manage your free online wedding gift registry. All of these apps are right at your fingertips to keep you on top of your wedding plans wherever you are.

Get Moving

Exercise has been my saving grace when tensions are high. It is the quickest way for me to change my internal climate when I have had a stressful day. Working out is my time to forget about wedding plans, put down my phone, work out with a friend, and listen to my favorite music.


As meditation has grown in popularity, it is something I have wanted to do but could never find the time for. A few months ago, I finally decided to commit myself to 10 minutes a day of sitting quietly and listening to my breath. Some days, these 10 minutes are simply used as 10 minutes I am not working on the wedding. Other days, I am able to really relax, ground myself, and feel the benefits of meditation such as a clearer mind and a calmer spirit.

Let Go

Although you will want to, you can’t possibly control every detail. I started out with a vision of exactly how I wanted things to look, from the flowers all the way down to what chairs people would be sitting in. However, I soon discovered the harder I clung on to that vision, the more frustrated I would become. Because the sad truth is, you can’t always get what you want. Finding out that the wooden benches I loved so much would cost twice as much as chairs or that sunflowers aren’t in bloom anywhere near our venue were tough pills to swallow. After some self-reflection and realization, I discovered that I will actually be OKAY if everything isn’t exactly how I had imagined. Letting go of that has brought me peace and helped avoid a serious case of “bridezilla.”


Let people help you. Your to-do list will feel never-ending if you try to do it all on your own. Pick a few tasks that you feel comfortable releasing the reins on, and you will be surprised at how eager people are to help. Your friends and family get a sense of ownership in your special day while you are lessening your load. It’s a win for everyone!

Put Things in Perspective

Of course, a wedding is much more than flowers and wooden benches. It is a celebration of the love, commitment, and friendship of two people who are in it forever. While the wedding day is one that we will remember forever, it is only the start to the next exciting chapter of our lives. Remembering how lucky I am that I found someone to share my life with always brings me back to what really matters.

  • Lisa Gavitt is the development coordinator for Hillsides’ Advancement Department. She graduated with a major in communications from California State University, Fullerton and studied abroad for one semester in Sydney, Australia. She has worked with children as a nanny, a tutor, and an English teacher in Vietnam, but always dreamed of becoming an event coordinator. Her wedding is coming up in June. 

7 Essential Tips to Help Youth Land a Job

resized workforce development

Workforce development specialist Joshua Mathieu (right) helps a student prepare for a job search.

By Joshua Mathieu

One of the most exciting accomplishments we can witness at the Peer Resource Center, a one-stop shop for transition-aged youth ages 16-25, is when a young adult gains employment. Whether our youth are seeking their first job ever (Wahoo!) or looking to try new things, it’s always a good idea to freshen them up on job-search techniques. Here are six helpful tips to get any youth looking for employment started:

  1. Know that the Resume is still King. Yes, you need a resume. Yes, it needs to look nice and be error-free. Yes, your contact information needs to be current; how else are potential employers going to get in touch with you? No, it doesn’t need to be five pages; one will be just fine. Yes, you should use action verbs in your descriptions, like “managed the checkout” instead of “was a cashier.” No, please don’t lie – ever. Yes, you should always have your resume in your email or cloud drive, saved for safekeeping and easy access anywhere.
  1. However, You’ll Have to Customize that Resume. Now that you just scribbled your entire life’s professional and personal experiences in under 500 words, instead of relying on a single resume, you should tailor your resume to the specific employer you are applying to.  (The main resume is the template you work off of, so it is still crucial.) You want to match the new position as closely as possible so you can highlight your previous work that emphasizes why you would be a good fit. A common question I get is, “Do I have to put that job on my resume?” The answer is no.  It is entirely up to you what job history you want to include on any resume, but be aware that excluding extended work experience may have an interviewer wondering about the gaps.
  1. Get Yourself Covered. You may be asking yourself, “Do I really need a cover letter?” or maybe even “What is a cover letter?” I’m glad you asked. A cover letter is…wait for it…a letter that covers your resume. It is a document that introduces you to the employer and lets them know why you are a great fit for the position. You don’t have to go crazy with it – it  should only be about three paragraphs long. Remember that an employer is only going to spend a precious few seconds looking over your application, so you want to get right to the point. Now as to whether or not you need one, the answer is yes. Unless otherwise directed, you should include a cover letter because it is a way to quickly summarize and showcase your talents and skills and communicates to the employer that you are willing to take the time to apply to the job correctly.
  1. Think Quality, not Quantity, When Applying for Jobs. Common thinking may suggest that you   need to complete as many applications as possible as fast as possible.  And it’s easy to see why one might think this strategy would work — “I applied to 387 jobs; I have to get at least one of them.”  In reality, you will have much better luck if you do a focused job search on positions most relevant to you and match your qualifications more fully. You won’t be wasting your time applying to jobs you are only half-interested in or may not be qualified for.
  1. Follow up After Every Job Application. In a survey of human resource managers, what percentage recommend following up an application with either an email or phone call? One hundred percent, even though they differ on how long to wait, with 43% stating one – two weeks is best. Go ahead and write that email (46% prefer this method) or make that phone call (39% prefer this method).  (By the way, only two percent of human resources say they prefer text messages, which are seen as unprofessional.)  When drafting an email or calling, keep in mind, you don’t want to seem pushy or  rude. A sample script: “Hello, My name is ____ and I applied for the position of _____  a  week ago.  I am still very interested in the position and am checking in to see if  interviews are available. Do you need any additional information from me?  Thank   you very much for your time.”  When you do get an answer, no matter the outcome – even if it’s a rejection — be respectful in your response.
  1. Once You Get an Interview, Prep for the Trip. If you do get a job interview, guess what is one of the most common mistakes a job seeker can make? Arriving late. People fail to research the logistics of getting to an interview, and wind up behind time. If possible, I suggest making a visit to your interview location in the days leading up to your interview. Map out your bus route or street directions ahead of time. (Did you know you can use Google Maps “arrive at” feature to estimate travel times for specific dates and time of day?)  Are there any special instructions to note such as a suite number, using the elevator, signing in at the front desk, or a secret knock pattern or passcode needed to get in?  (Just joking on this last part).  If you are unable to visit in person, you can do so virtually, again using Google Maps, this time their “street view” feature (I promise this tip isn’t sponsored by Google!). Recognizing the appearance of the exterior entrance will let you know you are exactly where you need to be.
  2. Follow This Number One Rule During the Interview: Have a positive outlook and willingness to work hard because these traits will go a long way toward landing you that job. I talk to managers all the time who say they are willing to train and teach all the skills. Lack of skills is not the problem. If you are willing to learn and work hard, make sure you express that. Let the employer know you will do whatever it takes, that you have passion, and that you will do the absolute best you can. That doesn’t mean you have to lie or be fake. Just be yourself and be confident.

These tips are just a start. There is a world of information out there ready to help youth become the best applicant, candidate, and employee.   (A few websites to visit:  www.cacareerzone.org/www.careeronestop.org/GetMyFuture/default.aspx or  www.apprenticeship.gov/apprenticeship-finder/listings.)  And at the Peer Resource Center, we are ready to help them explore that world. Our job is not only to help get youth jobs, but to help them realize they had the ability within them all along.

Joshua Mathieu serves as a workforce development specialist at Hillsides’ Youth Moving On (YMO) program in Pasadena, California. As a Transitional-Aged Youth (TAY) Collaborative master facilitator, Joshua facilitates a job readiness curriculum and workshops at community centers, colleges, high schools, and libraries as well as provides training.  While managing YMO’s Internship Program, Joshua matches youth to community business partners and oversees their progress and development of employment skills. Joshua began at Hillsides in 2010 and has a bachelor of science in International and Community Development from Indiana Wesleyan University.

Five Happiness Tips all Families Can Use



By Leslie Santana, LMFT

Families come in all shapes and sizes.  Some are small and tightly knitted; others big and international.  In my experience working with families, one thing that I have learned to be true is that all have unique strengths.  Here are five qualities that stand out in strong and resilient families.

  1. Families that laugh together, stay together

Positive experiences, no matter how small or insignificant, really contribute to overall family health. Small moments of laughter and fun strengthen and reinforce the life-lasting bond between family members.

  1. Wiggle room is key

Strong families allow each other to develop individually, which may include making mistakes. This means creating boundaries between family members – not stepping in all the time to “rescue” each other. While it may sound counterintuitive, only by giving family members some space, do they feel unconditionally supported because they know you trust them enough  to let them learn through experience.  And nothing is more important than children to feel supported when they are exploring and learning about this chaotic and sometimes confusing world.

  1. Independent friendships strengthen family relationships

Whether you are a mother, grandmother, uncle, son, daughter, or father, we are all equally human and many times need a shoulder to lean on. Having friendships and hobbies outside of the family provides space and perspective to handle stressors more effectively. Families who have poor support systems tend to have difficulty self-regulating because they’re missing foundational coping skills – friends and outlets.

  1. Strong families face change together

When looking at a family and trying to understand the core impairment, it is important to look at how that family manages both tension and trauma. Each individual in the family has an important role in handling stress, and sometimes the roles can shift with changes. Families that tend to flow together through changes contributes to the strength of the family.  What can hurt a family is when family members deny or resist a change that is inevitable.

5.  Communication is king

Strong and resilient families tend to have an attuned communication styles with each other. Healthy families are able to do two things interchangeably in the home. First, they are able to communicate their needs, thoughts, and emotions in a regulated and safe way. Second, they are able to listen to a family member’s needs, thoughts, and emotions and then respond appropriately.

Leslie is a licensed marriage and family  therapist who has been working at Hillsides for a little over two years. She is an outpatient therapist at the Bienvenidos Family Resource Center, East Los Angeles, and a Brand Ambassador for Hillsides.  She enjoys her co-workers and all the wonderful children she works with.


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