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Mental Health Matters: The Hero Coalition


Turning kids’ struggles into strengths, The Hero Coalition’s mental health programs in Spanish and English will impact over 200,000 children, teens, and parents in 2021. Created by psychologists and co-powered by youth, these interactive programs – in LA homes, schools, and community centers - build resilience, empathy, inclusion, nonviolent conflict resolution, and family communication skills. We teach crucial, evidence-based tools to navigate racism, depression, anxiety, anger, grief, shame, and fear. Our work - free of charge - also takes preventative action against despair, loneliness, and pain, which can lead to suicide, self-harm, and addiction.

Describe the mission of your organization.

The Hero Coalition provides mental health programs for children, teens, and adults. We lead people to become heroes for themselves and each other, overcoming depression, anxiety, shame, self-doubt and bullying in all its forms. By using evidence-based psychology + relatable stories and characters people love, we transform struggles into strengths.

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • Central LA
  • East LA
  • San Gabriel Valley
  • San Fernando Valley
  • South LA
  • South Bay
  • County of Los Angeles
  • City of Los Angeles

What is the problem that you are seeking to address?

The US is in a mental health crisis, affecting relationships, job rates, homelessness, the economy, rates of substance abuse, domestic abuse, suicide, crime and violence. According to American Psychological Assn meta-analysis, mental disorders in teens are 5x the rate of 75 years ago. These youth are leading us into the future: 30% engage in multiple high-risk behaviors, such as substance use, sex, violence, depression, attempted suicide +50% have overwhelming anxiety 52% victims of cyberbullying 48% victims of bullying 33% intense depression 1 in 6 teens seriously considered suicide in the past year Black & Brown youth suicide attempts: nearly 2x that of White youth LGBTQIA: 4x more likely to attempt suicide than straight kids 80% of teen suicide may be attributable to bullying For every suicide, there are +100 attempts COVID has exacerbated this. We must provide mental health services in ways that are replicable & free to the public. The Hero Coalition is doing that.

Describe the project, program, or initiative that this grant will support to address the problem identified.

We work in Partnership with YMCA USA, which chose The Heroic Journey as their mental health & social emotional learning program for children, teens & parents. In 2021, our work with YMCA is impacting 190,000 lives. Created by psychologists, The Heroic Journey features evidence-based tools that teach crucial mental health & social emotional skills in ways that are culturally relevant. The Heroic Journey teaches relatable mental health tools for: Violence prevention Emotion management Empathy Resiliency How to seek help Responding to bullying, racism, misogyny, LGBTQI+bullying Navigating inequity & discrimination Handling anger, depression, anxiety Ending implicit bias Becoming allies for targets Conflict resolution Restorative practices Healthy personal identity (crucial for ending fear and bias) Addressing emotional pain that leads to risk behaviors such as self-harm & addiction In addition to YMCAs, our work has multiple outlets: •The Heroic Journey at Home is available - in English & Spanish, free of charge - to the public via our website. •Our Inclusion & Diversity Council creates & distributes free mental health comic books. We have donated 4800 copies of Lights, Camera, Identity! Never Alone to LGBTQIA centers. We have donated +900 copies of SuperKids to children’s hospitals, to help children suffering from critical illness navigate loneliness, depression, anxiety & fear. •The Heroic Journey is in schools through CIS, the largest drop-out prevention org in the US.

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative (expanding and continuing ongoing, successful work)

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct impact
Indirect impact

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

With the LA2050 grant, we will expand our programs to underserved children, teens, and adults in 2 ways, with the goal of making mental health tools relatable & free for all who seek support. •Free programs & webinars, similar to our work for YMCA USA •Free printed resources, expanding on our relatable mental health comic books We are positioned for this: •Our work is used in Metro LA YMCA under Exec Dir Jen Sullivan. We plan to expand to underserved YMCAs in Commerce Crenshaw Downey Gardena-Carson Montebello Southeast-Rio South Pasadena San Marino Torrance-Southbay Weingart East LA Wilmington •Pending funding, we plan to bring our work to Boys & Girls Clubs. •We are partnered with Communities in Schools, the US largest dropout prevention org, in Chicago. We are in conversation with CIS LA Exec Dir Elmer Roldan to expand that work here. meta-analysis shows that teaching the basic tools used in The Heroic Journey positively impacts kids’ lives as many as 18 years later.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

In our evidence-based work with YMCAs, we use Hello Insight, their org to measure mental health program data & provide continuous improvement. We have monthly feedback meetings with +100 leaders/teachers, helping ensure cultural relevance & address specific needs. Our psychologists have done additional, internal webinars to provide support for Black & Brown mental health issues; trauma-informed work with kids. Measurements in YMCAs/community centers include: •Self-reported life management: ability to regulate one’s own emotions/behavior; take positive risks; persist through challenges •Social skills: ability to consider others’ perspectives, develop empathy •Self-efficacy: a person’s motivation over their own job, school, or parenting performance; potential for success •Mastery: one’s desire to learn, increase overall ability Measurement in schools also include: •Attendance •Number: bullying/behavior incidents •Students’ self-reporting depression/anxiety •Climate of inclusion

Which of the live metrics will you impact?​

  • Resilient communities
  • Mental illness
  • Access to mental health services

Indicate any additional LA2050 goals your project will impact.

  • LA is the best place to LEARN
  • LA is the healthiest place to CONNECT