Representative Grace F. Napolitano Representing the 38th District of California
  For Immediate Release Contact: 202-225-5256  
November 23, 2010  

LA Laker Ron Artest, Boxer Mia St. John Receive Mental Health Training and Visit Local Students


(Washington D.C.)- On Monday, November 22, Rep. Grace F. Napolitano joined LA Laker Ron Artest and champion boxer Mia St. John for an official mental health and suicide prevention training at Napolitano’s district office in Santa Fe Springs. After the training, Napolitano, Artest, and St. John visited Los Alisos Middle School in Norwalk, where they sat in with students and counselors from the school’s mental health program and listened to their stories.

"It was great to learn about the different kinds of needs our youth may have, depending on what challenges and circumstances they may be facing in life,” Artest said. “Having gone through this training, I feel more 'equipped with information,' and will feel more confident when speaking with kids in the future."

The training was delivered by Dr. Luis Garcia of Pacific Clinics, an organization which helps provide mental health services in California schools, and covered suicide prevention, the needs of young people dealing with mental health issues, and identifying youth who need help.

“I wish there had been a program for mental health when I was in school, but there wasn’t much help or awareness as a young Chicana growing up in the U.S.,” St. John said. “But I always had hope that one day I would get better and I made a promise to myself that I would devote my life to helping others overcome their battles with mental health.”

Artest and St. John have joined Napolitano to promote the Mental Health in Schools Act, legislation she authored which would increase federal funding for mental health therapists in schools. Los Alisos Middle School is one of the 11 schools in Napolitano’s district enrolled in a mental health program Napolitano started in 2001, a program which has been so successful it now serves as a model for the Mental Health in Schools Act.

Ron Artest took a stand for mental health in June when he thanked his psychologist after the LA Lakers won the NBA championship, an act that made national headlines and encouraged others not to be afraid to talk about mental health. In September he joined Napolitano at Eastmont Intermediate School to talk to students about therapy, and in October he put his first NBA championship ring up for an online raffle to benefit mental health charities. As a junior high student, he was guided by a school counselor, and he supports the Mental Health in Schools Act as a way to provide therapy for the many students who cannot afford it.

Mia St. John is a three-time world champion boxer who has successfully dealt with her own mental health issues to become an accomplished athlete. She has established a foundation, El Saber Es Poder (“Knowledge is Power”), to help Latino school children, and she travels and speaks to students on a variety of topics, including mental health. She supports the Mental Health in Schools Act because of the support it would provide to Latino youth and young women, two groups disproportionally affected by preventable mental illness.

“I applaud Ron Artest and Mia St. John for having the courage to step forward and speak out about mental health,” Napolitano said. “Their bravery does tremendous good for all of the youngsters who look up to them. With this training, they now have an even greater appreciation of what is at stake for the next generation. Their support for the Mental Health in Schools Act will help the many youth who desperately need someone to give them a helping hand.”

Napolitano is the co-chair of the Congressional Mental Health Caucus.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK




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