In this episode, we welcome Bianca McCall to the show to discuss the ways we can better support our student’s mental health. We also chat about what led Bianca to work in the mental health space, teaching our youth how to be vulnerable, Reach-In Now’s application to helping your student, and much more. Tune in to hear more from Bianca!
[00:00:00] This podcast is brought to you by our friends at Advantages Digital Learning Solutions, where learning is reimagined.
Sandy: Welcome to Learning Reimagined podcast. We are very excited and very honored to have Miss Bianca McCall, and I just wanted to thank you so much for making time today for us. Thank you, Bianca, for
Bianca: Yeah. No, thank you so much. I’m so excited to be here. So thank you for allowing me the space and the time to, to jump on and y’all’s conversation. I love it. Yeah.
Allison: I was not, I was not lucky enough to meet Bianca early on. And so Sandy spoke very highly of her and Bianca, I just really want our listeners to hear from you.
What is your background? Tell us, tell us where you got to be, how you got to be
where you are today.
Bianca: Oh, gosh, this is an incredible, incredible journey of how I got to be here today. I am, I always lead with, I’m a retired professional women’s basketball player. And I lead with that because my language, my outlook on life, my approach to, to life.
It. It’s all rooted in just how I’ve been groomed and trained, you know, as a competitor, as an athlete, I’m, I’m competitive at literally everything that I do. You know, and now I’m a competitive spectator, you know, of, of sports and, and of the sport that I love. So I’m the one that’s right up in front of the TV screaming curse.
Experiencing, you know, everything as though I was still playing, but but I’m, I’m a retired basketball player. And in my second act of life is, is what I call it. You know, I. I wanted to have an impact on young people. I have particular affinity for for young people. You know, at or or near the age that I was when I, you know, was was going through what in retrospect, I can call kind of like those, those mental health challenges, right?
You know, as a performer, I you know, I was, I was dealing with high stress situations high pressure situations, anxiety depression questioning kind of my worth and value and performance. And, and but I didn’t know it at the time. I mean, at the time I just thought I was, I was, you know, living the dream playing basketball.
And and going through injuries and such, you know, I, I really had some, some challenges and some, some battles with, with mental health that would shape kind of the, the rest of my life. And, and I’ve had some experiences, you know, I’ve had a lot of wins, a lot of championships. But a lot of losses at the same time and losses of you know, not just in the, in the win loss column, but, but losses of kind of my sense of self worth, my identity, you know, in my entire identity was, was being a performer and achieving you know a lot of things.
I I lost a teammate to suicide, you know, and, oh my goodness, I, I, I’ve sustained injuries, you know. That have changed the [00:03:00] trajectory of, of, of my career and opportunities. And so you know, my second act when I decided to retire, I knew that I wanted to prevent tragedies from happening. Some of the tragedies that I, that I had experienced as a young person.
And so I, I went into and, and I, I don’t know, I think I was always there, but, but professionally I went into into the mental health space. And I continued my education got a master’s in marriage, family, child counseling. Studied under the late Dr. Elliot Harris, who was a genius and pioneer and in the neuropathology of mental illness and learned all about you know, our bodies and our brains and what was going on as we respond to the different, you know, arousal and stimulation in life and treatment.
Thank you. And and I opened up a practice and in Las Vegas, Nevada, and I, and I tell everybody, it’s a really fun story how I ended up, you know, growing up in Northern California in a town called Santa Rosa. You know, I was an all American athlete, you know, recruited by virtually every college and university in the States.
And, and so I lived kind of that, that rock style life, you know, in the late eighties, thousands. And then and then, you know, that took me to, you know, having an decorated college career, being able to play professionally overseas. And I ended my career in Venice, Italia, and and in a really fun story after all of that after returning home to to Northern California, the San Francisco Bay Area It was, which I couldn’t afford to live, you know, it’s ridiculous.
It is was living with my father. And I think, I think we lasted probably about 27 days before I said, you know, I, this isn’t working out for me, you know, and, and so on a, thankfully we had a girls trip with a few of the girls that I played basketball with club basketball with, we went to Vegas and And this is my first time, you know, as an adult in Vegas and in all of the bright lights and in this, this really fun experience.
I remember going home after my visit and saying, mom, dad, granny, I’m moving to Vegas. And they were like, oh my gosh. And and yeah, so I, I ended up in Las Vegas where I that’s where I continued my education. I opened up a practice, an integrated behavioral healthcare company in June of 2011.
And and my focus was on targeting folks, communities that were were at higher risk of those mental health challenges, were at higher risk of, of mental health crises, like you know, addiction histories overdose deaths, suicide I wanted to be a part of preventing those tragedies from happening to more communities and more teams, more schools, more universities and just outward.
And so so yeah, I, I told you it was an incredible journey to get to where I am today. But I am you know, I’m a, I’m a licensed clinical therapist. I’ve owned and operated an [00:06:00] integrated behavioral health care clinic. You know, we, we were nine years going into the pandemic. And we did shape shifting and pivoting and.
And I I actually pivoted away from traditional clinical practice. You know, we had clinics and we had residential facilities. We’re doing a ton of work out in the community and and we pivoted to health tech, more of a digital health solution a way that we could still reach people, you know, and.
And my passion is in education and in you know, really just connecting with community, you know, a lot of those community approaches you know, I’m a huge proponent of those. And so I wanted to find a way to do that, that was pandemic proof and sustainable sustainable against, you know, society and, and these trends where we like to throw out things like social isolation and distance and all these terms.
And trends that really kind of divide us divide and conquer when it comes to our overall well being. I wanted to build something that was the antithesis of, of all the toxicity and the dangers and kind of societal trend. So went into digital health. Was the finally introduced to some developers from Microsoft and Microsoft and a tech company called I relate.
And and we built a mobile health application out of that. And yeah, we took all everything that we’ve learned all of our experiences, our professional experiences, our personal lived experiences from, you know, that, that entire journey that I just shared. And, you know, And and we developed a curriculum kind of you know how they say there’s no manual for life and any of that.
So we said, well, why don’t we try to, why don’t we try to build one and keep it simple, stupid, right. And, and, and make that about just being more aware, you know, improving ourselves as self identifiers of, of how we’re doing. And how we’re feeling, you know, instead of to give us more options than to just say, Hey, I’m fine, you know situation.
So, so we want to, we want to empower people you know, to be able to self identify and then also to be able to not only identify what resources are available or supports are available for us at any point. You know, in, in that continuum of how we’re doing but how to activate, you know, how do we ask for help?
How do we communicate and express when maybe we’re not fine, you know, or we’re some variation of fine. How do we express that? And, and I think that. The false assumption in health care and education and in all, you know, aspects of, of industry and community there’s, there’s this false assumption that we, we know when we’re in crisis, you know and by the time that we know it’s, it’s likely, you know pretty late in the game, right?
And, and there’s a false assumption that we, we know we’re good help seekers, you know, because for the most part most of us have been taught that strength and resilience, it really comes from [00:09:00] within, right? It comes from how much are you able to endure on your own with little to no help from somebody else.
That’s strength, that’s resilience. So we’ve kind of got to retrain. You know, the brain and, and retrain that process of, of how we’re motivated, how we shape our identities to be, to be better help seekers, you know, for ourselves. And then, and then we could help out, you know, others if our cups are running over.
So so yeah, I mean, you could probably tell just from the language that I use, education is at the center of all that, right?
Yeah, it absolutely is. So how, how do you approach that with our youth? Like, how do you educate them? To go ahead and be vulnerable.
Yeah, I think, you know, a lot of the, a lot of the work it starts, you know, it’s a little bit different than, than one might think.
It starts actually with. The champions in, in a given community or ecosystem, right? It starts with leadership. It starts with the adults in the environment, you know, as well. And, and when I, when I go in and, and when I work with schools, you know, I work with middle schools and high schools and colleges and universities.
And I always go in and, and we have kind of this awkward discussion because I say, you know, in order to have the greatest impact on your students, on your youth groups, You know, we’ve got to start by healing the champions and, and all the adults in the room and all the adults in the room kind of go like, no, like, we just want, we just want you to
Sandy: do the magic Bianca and
Bianca: talk to the kids, tell them that there’s resources, you know, tell them that they could reach out that we’re here and, and I say, you know, that’s, that’s A step, you know but I, I, I don’t believe my philosophy is not the first step, you know, and so how do I, how do I teach that to the kids is I start with the adults and and I provide you know, again, education being at the center is that we’ve got to.
We’ve got to re engineer, you know, everything that we know about wellness and our mental wellbeing, right? There’s a lot of misinformation out there that we’ve learned and that we’ve applied and we’ve kind of just hit and miss, you know things like. You know, teaching every stakeholder group within that ecosystem.
So, so students, so faculty and staff and then also involving the community, you know, the community stakeholders, which involve the student families, right? And it involves, you know, the professionals all different level of professionals that are, that are in the mental health or behavior health space different levels, meaning sure, having Therapists and counselors and doctors is great to, to have a resource network with, with those individuals.
But we’ve also got to empower, you know, the mid level practitioners and, and also our peers, our peer supports. Because, you know, it’s, it’s a lower barrier of entry. You know, when you’re talking to somebody who, [00:12:00] who’s like a tribe mentality, right? Like looks like you, talks like you, lives like you, or lives how you want to live.
You know, oftentimes, or more often. The not, you know, willing to talk to, to our peers, you know, before making that leap to, to talk to a doctor. Absolutely. You know but it’s little things. It’s, it’s educating on little things, the misinformation, things like the difference between. Stress and anxiety.
That’s a big one that I, that I work on with, with students. We’ve got students today that are very intelligent, right? They have access to all this information online on social, social platforms and they’re self diagnosing, you know. Absolutely. I have anxiety. I have post traumatic stress. I have depression.
And, and the thing is, is that, you know, our thoughts. are so powerful, right? And determining and influencing and impacting our realities, our experiences. And so if we think that we are sick, you know, if we think that we have anxiety and we tell ourselves this over and over and over, then we’ve manifested.
You know, a life and an experience that is rooted anxiety and and not to minimize, you know, the experiences of of what may be anxiety for a lot of people but to empower them with being able to intervene. You know, with self guided interventions or guided interventions, we need to empower people to be able to intervene at any stage of that anxiety and early stages of anxiety, maybe stress high amounts of stress, right?
And then understanding that stress. It’s not all bad, right? Because there’s good stress that helps motivate us and helps us to identify when we need to change, you know, we need to change something, we need to adapt. This is good stress, but stress that is unmanaged and not acknowledged, right, that goes on for a prolonged period of time.
That stress can become toxic and then toxic stress is the type of stress that could that then we start talking about trauma and we start talking about changes in our brain and, and, and, and changes in, in our DNA, even that affect how we, how we deal with stress and, and, and how we deal with, with adversity, you know, from that point there’s a difference, you know, between stress And toxic stress and then toxic stress and then what will become anxiety right again talking about if it’s ignored if it’s unmanaged.
So, so really it’s it’s about educating you know, our students. And in educating every stakeholder group, you know, in language that they understand that they can relate to, but educating people on really the continuum of which we exist, right? Right. The continuum of which we experience. Mental wellness, or maybe we’re in wellness, but we’re coping or we might be struggling [00:15:00] or challenge with our with our mental wellness and and some people you know, they experienced mental health challenges and conditions, you know, and and crises.
And so educating people on what that continuum looks like. And where they are on the continuum at any given moment and in, in reacting to any, any given life experience. And then again, going back to how do we identify the supports that are available to us and the resources that are available to us?
And then how do we activate those, you know, when we’re in need?
Allison: I really like that. I’ve never thought of stress and anxiety on, you know, a continuum like that. I thought it was two totally separate things and it seems like. Over the past, gosh, five, seven years. All my, I have teen daughter, well, actually they’re not even teens anymore.
Oh my gosh. Once my youngest is about to turn 20 and my oldest is about to turn 22. So not teens anymore, but during their teen years, they’d come home every day. Well, so and so has anxiety. So it’s like, it just seemed like it was an epidemic. And of course my kids are, well, I have anxiety too. And talking them through it, you know, I, they didn’t, I, cause I’ve seen kids who have true anxiety, you know, just by true definition and my kids weren’t that they had moments of anxiety, which, you know, speaking of your continuum, I think that had I had that language before, it would have been very helpful to talk to them, validate their feelings and say, yes, you have stress right now.
And yes, it is overwhelming. But that doesn’t mean you need to go on medication and start seeing therapists, you know, like having that kind of knowledge, I thought would have been so helpful. So I wish I had met you 10 years ago, Bianca.
Bianca: Well, you know, I think the most important, you know, part of what you just shared and thank you for sharing that.
Is I think you had the conversation. That’s really the most important, important piece. And I think for, for young people you know, when I go back to my youth and experiencing those mental health challenges what I was missing was. A safe space and or platform to be able to have a conversation. I couldn’t assign the language.
I knew what I was feeling was real and validating, you know, what, what young people, how they define their experiences and, and, and. How they do choose to, to define and to express what they’re feeling if they’re saying, Hey, I have anxiety to or, or, you know, this person is experiencing anxiety, then that is their reality, right?
Because again, what they’re thinking, what they’re, what they’re speaking it’s manifesting this experience that is rooted in anxiety. But really it’s, it’s getting people out of the, the, the binary ways of thinking. It’s really the cure, right? Because understanding that this exists on a continuum, when, even when you experience true anxiety and genuine anxiety, Then we [00:18:00] do have therapists and doctors and things like that available for you to engage with.
But understanding that you’re not always going to be in the space. You’re not, you’re not condemned or you’re not, you know, I know we live in a, in a, you know, healthcare, healthcare world or space where you have to have a diagnosis in order to, you know, receive. You know, certain, certain resources and help.
But it’s not, it’s actually not about the, the labeling, you know, piece. It’s about identifying that moment, you know, that moment in time and what activators contribute to you being in that space. And it goes back to empowering people to, to. Activate resources and employ positive coping strategies so that they can, they can manage right and understanding what, what, what areas can I, can I self manage?
Can I, can I have self guided interventions and what areas do I need to start? You know, pulling people off of, off of, I call it pulling people off of the half court line because I remember going out to the parks and playing basketball and then they’d have the captains, you know, we, we stand on the half court line and we say, I got her, I got him, I got her, I got him.
And then we pick our teams, right. We pick our teams that are going to, to lend to our success right on the court. And so. I apply that same kind of mentality to our well being and our wellness. You know, we’ve got to stand on the half court line and choose our supports and, and know that, okay, if I need a, if I need three points, I’m going to pick this shooter, right?
This person that’s really great at shooting threes. I’m gonna have them on my team. I’m gonna have a Steph Curry on my team if I want to win, you know, shooting threes. And if I need defense, I’m gonna have a Draymond Green, if you can’t tell I’m a Golden State Warriors fan. But, but you want to, you want to choose people that are qualified to be able to help carry you to success.
Allison: I think that’s a fantastic point to have your support group and I, I’m sorry, I know I cut you off there, but having your teaching the youth, like, who are you? I remember during gosh, horrible, but during one of the mass shootings in the school, look for the helpers. So talking to the kids and saying, identify who helpers are in your life.
Who can you talk to? Your soccer coach, your basketball player, you know, whoever it is in your world, your favorite teacher, your roommate, a parent, an aunt, having your arsenal, I guess, your armory of people that are your helpers, you know, that’s your, your team. And I think that’s, that’s really smart. That’s and I like being on the half court line.
I think that’s a good way to think about it. Well, to what
Sandy: you’re saying, Bianca’s and also Alison is identifying who the safe people are. And I think our youth, even, I mean, even as adults, I don’t know when the magical time is, how do I identify Who those safe individuals are, and that becomes really gray, especially for for students who are student athletes who are so
Allison: there’s so much
Sandy: pressure on their [00:21:00] shoulders to to perform, and there’s so much pressure to be academically successful as well.
And and they’re held to almost a different level of of perfection, if you will. And so as an athlete yourself, Bianca, how do we How do we reach out to these athletes that may not know how to ask for
Bianca: help? Yeah, no, great questions. You know, and that’s really why I start with, like I said, the adults in the room or champions in the ecosystem, because there’s such a level of influence, right?
Like our coaches, our educators, our staff members, our workforce, they have such an influence over how our young people process. You know, the, the stress in their lives and, and process this this help seeking, you know, behavior. Right. And so if, for example, as an athlete, if the culture, if sports culture doesn’t support me talking about my, my mental health and wellbeing if, especially if I’m challenged with it, you know, at that moment or from that experience, then.
I’m not, I’m less likely to reach out, even if I do have a coach that says, Hey, come talk to me, you know, if, if you’re in need, but if I know the natural consequence for sharing that I’m struggling is, you know, there’s going to be a, a loss, you know, I’m going to have to, to grieve a loss of status of, of within my identity, a loss of Playing time, a loss of opportunity, a loss of other people’s respect.
Allison: just gonna say and respect to you might be fearing that depending on how they react. Absolutely.
Bianca: Yeah. So it’s, it’s, it’s understanding. I’m, I’m, I’m answering the question in kind of a roundabout way of, of, I know the question is, how do we encourage our students and our youth to reach out? And, and my response is, well, we’ve got to empower and develop more safe people because the problem, a part of the problem is that there are not enough safe people, right?
And a safe person is, is not only are you able to create a safe space, right? In our physical environment, creating a safe space to be able to have these tough conversations. You also have to, to demonstrate for That you’re able to, to come from a safe place, right? And so Sandy, I know when, when you and I met, I talked a lot about this because this is my jam is, is what, what are the conversations we’re having with ourselves, right?
Internally self talk is, is such a huge component of, of, you know, what. What I teach in terms of health and wellness and empowering self and empowering communities, it all starts with self and really taking inventory of the conversations that we’re having with ourselves. Because even as adults, right, if we look at students and we look at, we look at the adults in the ecosystem, The adults in the ecosystem are really kind of projecting all of these, all of this anxiety, all the insecurities, all the [00:24:00] expectations, right?
Like if, if you talk to teachers, like I’ve been to schools and I, and I’ve asked the faculty and staff, what are you most concerned about? What stresses you out? And they say, You know, parent satisfaction. They say performance, right? And that means testing. That means performance. Even in the extracurriculars, anything that’s tied to funding and sustainability for that school.
That’s what that’s what your adults in the ecosystem are concerned about. Well, then you ask the kids what’s stressing you out? And they say getting good grades. Going, getting, getting into college, you know, testing, well, getting into a good school things that please their parents, things that please the adults within the, within the ecosystem.
So, so arguably. Whatever we’re as adults, whatever we’re concerned about, that’s actually creating stress, right? And those metrics for, for our youth and what they’re concerned about. And so when we talk about how do we heal the youth? Well, I think indirectly we’ve got to address how much influence we have over the youth and the things that they care about, the things that they stress out about how they handle themselves, you know, in, in stressful times, I’ll tell you this.
I, in, in, in clinical practice, I was seeing a woman who is a mother. I mean, she, she was a performer. She didn’t perform in sports like me, but she was a performer as. A mother as an employee, you know, as, as a wife and all these things and, and she would come into a session and she would tell me, Bianca, every day when I get home from work, I sit in the garage and I cry for about 30 minutes before I walk into the house.
And then when I walk into the house, I’ve got to make dinner. I’ve got to clean. I’ve got to help with homework. I’ve got to, you know, tell my husband where, you know, all of the things that he’s misplaced, you know, where they’re at and. So she had all of these roles. She had to just perform and it was like a curtain call as soon as she walked into the house from the garage.
But she always transitioned from coming home from a job where she was getting bullied, you know, at work. I mean, the adult bullying is, is real, right? You know, she would go in and, and, Oh, you know, what are you wearing? Oh, is that a new purse? You know, all these things. So getting bullied at work, going through all of that, that gauntlet that, that we go through in the workforce or the workplace.
She would come home. She would cry for 30 minutes and then she would be on, you know, she would, she would be on on, on as far as is performing. So I asked her, you know, when things go wrong at the house, you know, and, and kids don’t want to do the homework. They’ve left a mess. There, you know, there’s a trail of, of potato chips, you know, from, from the kitchen to the, to the TV room and all these things.
And she says, yeah, I just, you know, start yelling, you know, start yelling at everybody like, what are you doing? Pick this up. So her, her family, she hasn’t expressed to her family that she’s having a tough time. Right. I mean, work to home, like nobody knows that, that she’s struggling and, and [00:27:00] in her mind.
Nobody’s supposed to know, right? This is strength. This is resilience. This is resolve, you know? Just me crying and then, and then going in. So fast forward, one of her children was going through a tough time in school, getting bullied in school and
this sort of her. But there was some self harm that was done. The child started to self harm and Then when I’m talking to the family in session you know, the, the question comes about, we expect our young people to express somehow know how to express themselves when they’re struggling, but what’s being modeled is, is the exact opposite.
What’s being modeled is exactly what’s, what’s being demonstrated with the children, right? Our children are learning that when we’re challenged, when we’re stressed, when we’re going through a tough time, you shut down, you shut down communication. You don’t let anybody know that you’re struggling and you just perform, you know, we’re teaching them that, you know, and, and that, and that’s without language, right.
Through action, teaching them this. And so, Again, how do we teach kids to reach out? Yeah. Demonstrate, you know, how to be better help seekers. We’ve got to demonstrate how to be non binary thinkers, because especially with our younger generations today, everything has been made so convenient for them, right?
Especially as if we’re, if we’re parents, right, that are listening we’re, we’re always going to do something better than our parents did. Right. And, and we’re always going to provide, you know, we’re just going to be better than, than what our parents, how they neglected us and abused us right as children.
So, but what we’ve done is we’ve made things really convenient for, for our youth and our, our youth. I always use the analogy of, of a flight itinerary or flying on a plane. Right. Are you The way that they think about life and challenges is, is like going to an airport, you know, flying from, I’m in Las Vegas, so flying from Las Vegas, and then let’s say they want to go to New York they hop on a plane, a few hours later, after, you know, somebody taxing us through the skies at 500 miles an hour, we end up in New York, right?
A few hours later. Well, what are, what are you… What they have not been able to experience in, in the, in the newest generation is the road trip, right? They don’t know what, how beautiful this country is, right? And, and they don’t know how to get through certain adversity. You know, you, you hop on I 5 and, and you run into some weather or road closures, or you’ve got to drive through the South, you know, instead.
And, and, and all these things, there, there’s not this. Adaptability, adaptability. I was just thinking, yeah, they’re, they’re just very much used to getting from point a to point z with, with maximum convenience, you know? And so, so any level of adversity can feel like [00:30:00] trauma to a lot of our youth because the ways in, in, in, in with my philosophy, the ways that I define trauma is.
Any incident that or an event that forces you to change the ways that you view yourself and the world and the relationship in between. Right. And so when that causes detriment to our identity, because for me, I mean, I, I pull from, you know, our, our, our philosophers and, and And, and therapy and, and all of these theories, you know, Dr.
Bandura that talks about self efficacy and what we believe is really at the core of, of what we can achieve, right? If we believe we can do something, then we’re more likely to be able to set that goal and achieve it. And, and our belief systems of who we, who we are and what we can achieve is really based on.
You know, binary thinking, you know, so many of our kids, especially high performing and high achieving youth. And again, I’m not talking about just performance in sports, but performing in academics, right. Performing in their roles as children, as siblings, as you know, and as adults having multiple roles that they’re performing in, but, but anytime that we question.
our performance, or we think that we’re not performing well in any one of those multiple roles that affects Our mental health because it affects our belief about who we are and what we can achieve. Right. And it’s hopelessness, you know, in terms of that identity. So having the belief that that we’re not going to be able to achieve goals, you know, we’re not who we think we are because the world is responding to us.
differently, right? It’s, it’s that level of hopelessness that causes despair, that causes some of the mental health challenges and some of the more serious, you know, challenges that we, that we face or that youth are facing because, you know, we, we have to be honest about this. And we have to talk about this is that we are in a national state of emergency for youth and adolescent mental health.
You know, ever since it was October of 2021, the National Coalition announced or declared that we are in a national state of emergency for youth and adolescent mental health. Just earlier in August, August 13th, the Centers for Disease Control released a preliminary report on 2022 statistics, looking at mental health crises defined by suicide, defined by drug overdose deaths, and it had the highest rates.
In reporting history for the CDC suicide, death and drug overdose. That’s so
Sandy: alarming. Bianca. That’s just these numbers are not
Allison: going down.
Allison: what’s surprising to me is that. Well, I, I have my own beliefs and we’ll get to that in a second, but we, my kids, there’s so much more open this generation, I feel are so much more open about mental health.
It’s so not a stigma anymore because so many of their kids, their friends and whatnot have therapists and they’re very open talking [00:33:00] about it. And they’re open about their struggles and they’re very tolerant. Like, oh, I don’t want to go to that party because you’re not feeling very anxious today. And they, they seem to be just much more understanding.
So, on the, on the flip side, having that rise in all of these horrible things. It doesn’t go together to me, and I really feel like social media is just so in person, I feel like we’re really, we’re, we’re better. But I feel like the social media aspect of these kids lives, I really feel like that is putting this incredible burden on them.
And I think that is a huge component in the rise in depression and anxiety and, and teen suicide. And I’d be curious to hear
Bianca: your thoughts on that. Yeah, you know, I, I think social media plays a role. Absolutely. I, I don’t think that it’s a hundred percent the, the culprit for, for why we’re seeing the increases.
I think it’s because, you know, and I always, so my grandfather loved to love to fish and my uncle loves to fish. And, and when I was younger, my uncle used to take me out and, and, and fish, although I have a problem with touching worms and getting, you know, the bait on the hook. But but one, one thing always stuck with me that my uncle said is he said, it’s not enough to just cast a wide net, right.
Or to throw lines out, you know to catch fish. It’s, it’s all about what are you going to do with the fish when they’re on the boat? You know, and, and the same goes for our youth and our mental health, right? More openness, more awareness and openness and discussing, you know, our mental health and wellbeing creating less of a, of a stigma surrounding mental health and, and connecting you know, youth with resources or, or at least creating these directories of resources for mental health, that’s like casting a net.
You know, and, and yeah, we’ve got more of our young people that are willing to talk about it. So we’ve, we’ve caught a lot of fish. Now they’re on the boat, and what are you going to do with them when they’re on the boat? I think that’s where we’re falling short. Okay. And it goes back to… Again, how much are we shifting our binary ways of thinking in so many cultures and communities?
The parallel cultural values and roles and rules are still consistently win or lose, win or go home, right? It’s very much black and white thinking you’re mentally ill or you are mentally healthy, right? So I’m, I’m. Either doing fine, I’m fine, or I’ve got anxiety, you know there’s, there’s not enough of the continuum to the gray area.
Right. And there’s not enough empowerment of, of like self guided interventions. Right. And so it creates a bottleneck. [00:36:00] With crisis, right? Crisis interventions. So you’ve got a bottleneck of people in emergency rooms and emergency departments or contacting therapists or doctors when there’s been a, like with a sense of urgency when there’s been an incident, you know, we’re very reactive in that sense.
So it creates a bottleneck. And so then you’ve got people that are You know, on waiting lists for weeks before they can talk to somebody or they’re bottlenecked in, in emergency departments and, and they’re a part of kind of like this 15 minute, you know, I call it speed dating, you know, with doctors, right?
Like you need a perfect analogy prescription, you know, and so, so what we’re doing when the fish are on the boat, so to speak To me, that’s where the, the change needs to occur. That’s where we’ve got a lot of room to grow and to improve on our systems. And, and that starts with again, it starts with, with, we’ve got to mobilize champions in, in each of these communities, each of these ecosystems.
So we’ve got to empower, we’ve got to educate, we’ve got to re engineer, you know, some of these systems, because as adults. We are struggling with the same things right with binary ways of thinking we’re still shutting down on communication We’re we’re telling them to do as we say not as we do, you know, and and that that disconnect You know anytime there’s there’s separation or dissonance There’s always going to be stress and remember what we said about stress unmanaged and not acknowledge leading to to anxiety and and and more challenges.
And and we have to understand that we’re creating. We’re still reinforcing this disconnect, you know, between generations between communities and families and with ourselves. There’s still this this disassociation that happens, right? If we’re not feeling well. We’re gonna go to work anyway because we need money.
Right. Right. So we just from our physical being and experiences and we mentally or psychologically or spiritually we push through, right? And we perform. And so if we practice. Disassociation even within ourselves that becomes the framework for, for all relationships and all interactions. And if we’re teaching that, then our kids, our youth are still going to be doing the same thing.
It perpetuates, exactly. It perpetuates. And, and even if, if you look at kind of these ecosystems, you know, when I say ecosystems, I mean, you could It’s it’s interchangeable. It could be a school system, a community, a family system. But when you look at youth within any given ecosystem and youth are very intelligent.
And I think that’s something to that. We’ve got to remember is that we’re actually more intelligent. You know, from the moment we’re born in infancy, then we are, you know, at whatever age I am now, right birthday. And so and understanding that an infant, you know, when an infant’s born without knowing [00:39:00] language without knowing any of the academic, right, rubrics or anything like that, an infant knows who its mother is.
Right? Nose can identify caregivers based on heart rhythms, based on sounds, not even clear sight, you know, at that point. But that’s the level of intelligence, you know, of an infant. That’s able to connect based on, you know, those energies and that’s surrounding it, right? And it’s not until we get older and, and we were, we’re taught to disassociate from, you know, that, that operation, right?
Or that level of influence. And we’re, we’re taught to disassociate and attach ourselves to whatever the world thinks, you know, this is. If the world says the sky is blue, the sky is blue, you know, and, and, and all of that, right? So. So, as we get older. You know, arguably we’re, we’re getting less intelligent when it comes to our, our emotional, our spiritual, our, you know, social, even our social beings, because we, we start to rely a lot on, on feedback from the world and just social norms
Right. But, but that’s all, that’s all based on, you know, the influencer of the time and the day, whatever they’re telling us. Right. And so. So the only cure to get back to where we are extremely intelligent when it comes to our social and our emotional selves, our psychological, our spiritual selves, the only way to get back to that is integration, right?
Because that’s the opposite of the separation, right? So we’ve got to, we’ve got to integrate as opposed to separate. Now, understanding that our kids. They feel everything that’s going on around them and all the adults in in their ecosystem. If their parents are stressed about money, you know, or if they’re it’s amazing when I did surveys on on school campuses and and found that our kids are concerned about.
Like their food, food stability, you know, housing stability, you know, and these are in schools where their families are upper middle class, you know, working families that, that you wouldn’t think that that would be a concern, but they know, they hear the conversations that their, their parents are having, they can sense the tension, they can sense the stress and they adopt that.
Even without a conversation, even without the language, they feel that because they are intelligent, you know, as young people. And so whenever there’s a crisis, so when the adults in their ecosystem are in crisis, it’s a natural defense mechanism for the youth to disassociate. Right. If I’m getting, if I’m sensing tension and crisis and all this and that from the adults in the ecosystem, I’ve got to separate from that.
And again, this would happen without language, without a conversation, without them even really being consciously aware that that’s what they’re doing. But that’s when you [00:42:00] have a young person that is out of the house. You know, with friends or following another type of influence because the source of, of, of that pain of that anxiety, right, is, is, it’s too much for them.
It’s overwhelming. Right. And so with our kids. Disassociating, you know, and especially when we look at education systems, you know, and what our education systems are going through today with, you know, workforce and shortages with you know, constant battles and things like that you know, between unions and, and it’s, it’s The school system is in crisis right now.
Absolutely. We don’t know much of what it’s going to look like in a few years. And so,
Sandy: That’s such a true, I mean such a different perspective and it’s such a reality for us. When we look at our students and they’re taking in that stress and it is a defense mechanism for them to turn away. Yeah, and then after.
Allison: And after COVID, where they were, you know, learning from home and they were separated from their peers. I’ve talked to, we’ve, we’ve talked to countless teachers who say that when they return to in person learning, the kids have no idea socially how to even be around other people. So that sets them back as well.
Add to that the daily stress of it all. It’s just, I don’t think we’ve seen the end of the ramifications of COVID by any stretch. I, I just, it’s… It’s a little scary to see what’s happening in our schools and the increase in violence in our schools and safety in our schools and teacher retention is, it’s not happening.
It is. It’s not happening. And it, and especially champions are champions. Yeah. Our champions are the few champions we had there, you know, they’re dwindling because of all of the stress and the extra that’s put it been put on them as well. It’s just, we’re facing the uphill battle, Bianca. I think everybody needs you in their life.
Bianca: Thank you for that. So,
Sandy: Bianca, with with all of what we have learned today, I just you developed a digital content. How does that address some of these these pain points? Good question.
Bianca: Yeah, so with our, with our health application we’ve integrated kind of like a master class platform that is, you know, it uses, uses like short video content, influencer content. So from who our young people identify as, you know, being the champions in, in their ecosystem whether that be performers in sports, music, arts, entertainment experts in academia other teachers and staff. But we created video content to be able to One, educate on the continuum of mental health and wellness.
Two, teach the [00:45:00] language, right? So we’ve gotta, we’ve gotta do some redefining of, of things and, and shift the, the paradigm in terms of what the mental health culture has been. Up until this point. So we’re teaching them new language, and then we’re also practicing through application. We’re practicing having those conversations and and with the app itself.
It integrates kind of that master class content with the influencer content as well as the technologies, which is which is that’s kind of our you know, our unique kind of proposition with the app is that our technologies are designed to be able to collect data and aggregated data. I mean, this is, this is not, you know, like personal identifying data or anything like that, but to collect data.
So based on engagement. Based on, you know, what makes the user tick. Also based on, you know, some other things that we’ve got, we’ve got some other integrations, things like you can link like your Fitbit to the to the app or your Apple watch and these sorts of things. So we look at sleep, we look at Activity.
We look at nutrition. We look at engagement on the actual curriculum. We look at engagement in terms of the social engagement. So on our chat platform we’ve got, you know, it’s selectively anonymous, but we’ve got audio and video chats. And so based on your conversations there, Our technology can both predict, you know, provide predictive analytics.
So based on keywords and key phrases and syntax and context, we can identify levels of risk, you know, based on that. And so we have. Yeah. Yeah. And, and the holistic piece of it is wonderful. Well, and, and not only, not only you know, predicting risk, but I think again, it’s, what do you do when, when they’re on the boat, right?
Perspective piece. And based on those key words and key phrases and context and things, we can connect people with our internal network of resources and supports. And again, looking at supports as a continuum, right? Looking at all social determinants of health, and we need supports and helpers and healers in education, in finances, in community, in housing.
And, you know, health care, but all the above, you know, and we need multiple tiers of those resources with the network, right? So so that there’s a low, low entry to, or low barrier to entry, excuse me. And so We’re asking people, you know, we’ve got certified peer supports through our, our partnership with, with the NAMI organization that has warm lines and text lines with people that have been trained peers that have lived experiences with mental health challenges and, and substance abuse challenges, but they’re, they’re trained and they’re certified to respond in real time.
Right. And, and some of these lines. 24 7 3 65 languages. So we’re able, our technology is able to connect people in real time as [00:48:00] well to an appropriate level or appropriate. And so you’re not, we’re not saying, Hey, you know something’s wrong. Well, you know, we’re going to call the parents and we’re going to harass the parents and say, Hey call this, call this agency or call this facility and, and get your, get your student connected.
And then when they call. Oh, you got to wait six weeks until somebody is available and all these other things where so many people fall through the gaps, but instead you’ve got real time engagement in an inner activity, you know, within the app. And so if a doctor or therapist isn’t available and you’re waiting for an appointment, you’ve got peer supports that are available to talk and to do.
Soft assessments to determine if this is a crisis that needs to be escalated, you know, where you can’t wait or if this is something where you just needed somebody to, to confide in, you just needed to be aware of some, some resources that are hyperlocal to where you are. Yeah. And, and, and in the meantime, you know, while we’ve connected you with here, we’re gonna follow up and we’re gonna say, we’re gonna prescribe, Hey, this video this video series talks about dealing with anxiety or dealing with stress.
Mm-hmm. Hoping here’s some positive coping strategies if you, if you need to develop a list. So we prescribe the curriculum within the app as well. That’s great to be able to help support it.
Allison: So now for for our listeners, can they get access to this app or does it have to be through like a school partnership or something like that?
Can that just an individual subscribe?
Bianca: Yeah, so what we’ve done is we’ve released the our beta version of the app because we wanted to test this and grow our networks and grow our resources. And so the beta version that’s available now in the app store is available to our partners and schools and things like that.
We’re releasing to the public this free mental health resource. And it’s called reach in now. But we’re releasing that to the public in the first quarter of 2024. And so we’re actually. Developing some of the more advanced, you know, technologies to release in the, in by March of 2024.
Allison: So that’s very exciting.
But for our, so for the listeners right now, they don’t really have access to it. We’ll have to have you back in March to talk about the release is what I’m hearing.
Bianca: Yeah. No, that, that is that is correct. I think what they, what they do have access to you know, our, our platform like I, I do several things.
I go in to schools and, and I do a lot of public speaking keynote, I go into different organizations. And so for the listeners that are interested in, in the curriculum piece or, or reaching now kind of as, as the movement itself You know, they do have access to be able to start the conversation, you know, with organizations or to get on in our database so that when we do launch and release, you know, they have early access to all of these things.
And then I also think It’s never too soon to start the conversation, like start following us now. Let’s start [00:51:00] talking now and jumping on forums, whether it be through, you know, your, your advantages podcast and, and any other types of forms where we’re at least beginning to shift, you know, our, our perspective on, on mental health and wellbeing, you know, and, and what should we be looking for, you know, talking about signs and symptoms and ways to manage, you know, and, and I’ll kind of.
Conclude with, with this piece is, you know, for me and my philosophy is that we’ve got to acknowledge, you know, these things and, and acknowledging isn’t just saying, Hey, you know, I, I’ve got a lot of trauma, you know, and that’s why I am the way that I am, you know, acknowledging there’s a call to action with acknowledging.
And I always break it up and I say, act knowledge, right. And, and knowledge that’s education, right. That’s informing. That’s the call to action is we’ve got to inform ourselves about. You know, what’s going on currently, you know, with, with mental health and wellness, we got to be informed about who we are and have greater self awareness.
Right. And like I was saying before, take that inventory. How are we, what’s our self talk like, you know, are we, I’ll be honest with me. I used to say some of the most, the terrible things to myself, right. That I would never repeat to anybody else. Right. And I am a therapist and I, and I, and I, I have access to therapists and to doctors and, and pastoral counselors and, and friends and family, but I would never, I’m still never say some of the things that I, that I’ve said to myself, you know, and how hard I am on myself.
Right. And so many of us are like this, not realizing that what we’re practicing. Is, you know, again, that, that disassociation and, and, and that negative self talk it, it forms our, our beliefs about who we are and what we can do. And so never too soon to start those conversations and that shift. I,
Allison: yeah, I love that.
I remember when I was in in high school, I went to a leadership camp and they had us put a rubber band around our wrist. And I challenge everybody listening right now to do this, just even for an hour, we had to do it for a whole week. Just put a rubber band around your wrist. Every time you have a negative thought about yourself, you were supposed to snap the rubber band on your wrist.
I mean, not to cause great pain, but just as an acknowledgement of all of the negative self talk you were doing. And by the end of the day, I had like red marks and I, I noticed like, wow, I really do talk down to myself. So much, and as the week progressed, you know, that’s what we kept up with the whole week you would, you were hopefully noticing that you were doing it less and less because you became more mindful of it.
And so I challenge everybody out there to try that at home and just if you’re doing that kind of negative self talk, you know, you probably are portraying that with your kids and with your students and just really be mindful of that and try to have a more positive relationship with your own self. Just to start with your whole championship and being that person for the people who need you.[00:54:00]
Bianca: Yes. Yeah, and I, I, I think becoming more aware of the negative self talk is absolutely, it’s, it’s a great first step, you know, great conversation and I, I encourage people to be kind to yourself and, and show some compassion, you know, and so for those of you that, Yeah. The rubber band, it may activate, you know, a way for you not to be kind to yourself.
And it’s just some things work for some people, some things, you know, work for other people. So I would challenge you to find that thing that makes you feel good too, you know, and, and where you could practice being compassionate for yourself, you know. Yeah. Yeah. And having
Sandy: grace with, with oneself too, because I.
I think, I think we’re so hard on one another, on ourselves, it’s just,
Bianca: if, if that’s us as
Sandy: adults, our youth is struggling with it, whether they share it, acknowledge it or not, it’s just so helping them with those steps. I think that’s so, so helpful.
Allison: I’m just so excited to introduce you and reach in now to our listeners.
We will link everything of Bianca and reach in now to our socials, but Bianca, why don’t you go ahead and tell our listeners, what is your website? How’s the best way to reach
Bianca: out to you? All right. Our website is www. reachinnow. com. Reach in now. com and, and we’re on we’re on Facebook and Instagram Snapchat, the only platform that we’re not on currently is X Twitter.
And, and I, I might just being a, being a little stubborn about, about that. But we’re on, we’re on most social media.