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Breaking the Stigma of Accessing Mental Health Services in the City of El Monte

Tittle: El - Photo by: E. Barajas
Tittle: El - Photo by: E. Barajas

KCETLink Youth Voices is working with students from Arroyo High School to explore El Monte/South El Monte and the surrounding communities. The students have formed teams to explore and investigate their communities, map assets, collect and share stories, data and community input for their projects. All the while they are learning and expanding their knowledge of digital media and civic engagement. Follow Love is Respect El Monte on Twitter @loveisrespectem or the social media hashtags #LoveIsRespectEM and #KCETYV.

My name is Justin, I'm a graduating senior at Arroyo High School. I'm nothing but a normal high school student. I participate in extracurricular activities like the school's student led newspaper, enjoy a good laugh with friends, and binge watching comic book inspired movies and TV shows. You might not know it at first glance, but when I was sixteen I started attending counseling and continued for almost two years. I began counseling because I wasn't in a good emotional place -- during that time, I felt like I was losing ground and I was slowly sinking. Looking back, If it weren't for the simple act of reaching out to a trusted school counselor, I wouldn't be here today.

Photo of Justin when he was four years old

Counseling has helped me overcome my depression that has haunted me since I was a child. Everyone has some kind of baggage they carry with them, scars we're all too ashamed to let breath. I guess for me, those scars began the day my parents walked out the door and never returned -- choosing drugs over being parents to my brothers and I. It wasn't until years later where the effects of my parents choices took a hold of my life. By junior year of high school, I fell into a deep depression; and It definitely wasn't pretty, I saw the colors drain out of this world and slowly they were replaced with sadness. I lost touch of who I was and I remember feeling as if my existence, my happiness, and my creativity were all slowly evaporating into nothingness. As if I was simply waiting for my sad, useless, and broken life to come to a close. Yes, I know this might be a bit melodramatic, but it's the truth. Most importantly, I knew if I continued on this path it would be the cause of my destruction. I sought out help so I could learn how to cope and move from this dark time in my life.

Foothill Family Service, the center located on Valley Boulevard, right here in little ol' El Monte. It surprisingly became the highlight of my week, a rock in a very turbulent time in my life. I remembered when I first walk through the doors of the center I really, really, really hated it. I hated the fact that I wasn't safe from myself, I hated that I was so damaged that I actually needed help to get better, but I especially hated how I was expected to change so that everyone else wouldn't worry. During my first sessions, I thought, I was making a huge mistake by talking about how I felt. I mean, why would I want to tell anyone anything? During those first sessions I felt like my personal problems were my own and if wasn't strong enough to overcome them, then I definitely deserved to succumb to them. But when I met my counselor, I knew that this was a good idea. Right off the bat, I opened up about myself. Slowly at first, timidly, but then it was like the floodgates had been opened. In the end, almost two years later, I realized that I had opened Pandora's box. I had fought every demon I've ever gotten to know all over again. It hurt, I cried, but in the end I had one against myself, in the end I came out on top stronger than ever. Once again I felt hopeful about myself, about life, about the future and it was thanks to the help of others. Some roads you got to walk by yourself, but not always. I'm thankful I figured that out before it was too late.

Youth Friendly Mental Health Resource:

Foothill Family Service
11429 Valley Blvd, El Monte, CA 91731
Ph: 626-993-3000


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