Goldie Hawn, Ava DuVernay join coalition to support mental health in California schools

Actress Goldie Hawn, director Ava DuVernay and NBA star Kevin Love are among public figures joining a California school-based effort to tackle youth depression and suicide rates that have been magnified by the pandemic.

"We have a job to do, and it's a beautiful job, but I don't think we can turn a blind eye to the next generation because they will shape the world," said Hawn, whose own program, MindUP is a partner, which encourages curriculum focused on neuroscience.

"Know your brain. Why aren't we teaching brain science in the classroom? We ask them to use their brain, we depend on that, and we don't teach them how their brain works," she said.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond serves as honorary chair of the Coalition for School Well-Being. He says it's hard enough being a young person under normal circumstances.

"But right now, our young people and all of us are experiencing what I believe is the toughest moment that most of us will experience in our lifetime. The pandemic literally threatens our well-being," said Thurmond.

Love, who has publicly discussed his own struggles with mental health, and DuVernay are also part of the public/private partnership, which puts a focus on social emotional learning, mental health and racial/social justice.

"It's gonna take all of us coming together to draw on our resources, expertise, to make this a top priority," said Dr. Amy Cranston, executive director of SEL4CA.

It comes just days after Gov. Gavin Newsom announced his budget proposal, which includes an historic $90 billion for schools. Of that, $400 million would be set aside for school-based mental health, addressing the trauma brought on by the pandemic.

"Social isolation can be as harmful to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and that was even before COVID," said Laura Talmus, co-founder of Beyond Differences.

"Our students need us. Our young people need us and they deserve the opportunity to have loving supportive methods to help them grow into who they're gonna become," said Thurmond.

Newsom still wants schools to safely return to in-person instruction in February. There is $2 billion in his budget proposal to support that, with priority given to transitional kindergarten through second grade and at-risk groups.
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