Ask the Experts: Addressing the Mental Health Needs of Young People During the Pandemic Part 1


The COVID-19 pandemic has presented many challenges to students, educators, and parents. Children already coping with mental health conditions have been especially vulnerable to the changes, and now we are learning more about the broad impacts on students as a result of schools being closed, physical distancing guidelines and isolation, and other unexpected changes to their lives.

Taking steps to support students is essential during this challenging time. For us at The Help Group, that means more than simply making sure they learn from lesson plans and score well on standardized tests. We are as concerned about the social, emotional, and mental health needs of students in our community.


Sheryl Huezo-Meshack has an MSW with an emphasis in Community partnerships and Program Administration and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She primarily works in the area of 0-5, trauma, and parent-child attachment. An integral part of The Help Group’s Outpatient CalWORKs Program, Sheryl is the Intake Coordinator and Clinical Supervisor for the Individual Placement and Support Services Program (IPS). She oversees employment related services for clients that are working to overcome personal challenges through therapeutic services in order to return to the workforce and maintain competitive employment. Sheryl is certified in Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, The Incredible Years Parenting Program, and Infant Massage.

Christina Ortiz, PsyD., is a Therapist and Registered Psychologist at the Didi Hirsch Suicide Prevention Center. She provides individual and family psychotherapy to adults, teens, and children affected by suicide and/or mental illness. She also co-facilitates the Teen Survivors after Suicide and adult Survivor of Suicide Attempt support groups, and provides clinical trainings to community organizations, schools, and businesses, offering them a view of suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention from the clinical perspective. She was a volunteer suicide crisis intervention counselor for Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services’ National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for three years prior to beginning graduate school and obtaining her doctorate in Clinical Psychology.

Laurie Owens, MS, MFT, is the Director of Clinical Services for North Hills Prep. Laurie grew up in Southern California and has been working with children since high school. Laurie received a B.S. in Psychology from University of California, Santa Barbara and later completed her M.S. in Counseling Psychology at California State University, Northridge. Laurie is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who has counseled children, adolescents and families in a variety of settings. She has over 20 years experience working with youth facing a variety of issues such as trauma, depression, anxiety, identity issues, substance abuse, self-injurious behaviors, eating disorders and transitioning to adulthood.

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