Department of Health Care Services launches initiative to support student mental health

The California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) announced on Aug. 23 the launch of the CalHOPE Schools Initiative, featuring transformational films that speak directly to the heart of students’ social-emotional and mental health needs and customized curriculum and guides to help teachers, students and families successfully navigate the journey to personal well-being. CalHOPE schools is a project supported by three nonprofit organizations, All It Takes, IMPACTFUL and Z-Cares.

The mission of the partnership is to provide no-cost resources to schools and local educational agencies across California to promote mental health and wellness. Recognizing the impact of stress, trauma, anxiety and other challenges on mental health, the free resources offer opportunities for LEAs to support relationships, build resilience and provide inspiration and support for students, educators and families.

The initiative centers around three films A Trusted Space: Redirecting Grief to Growth, Angst: Building Resilience and Look at Me Now: Stories of Hope. A Trusted Space was created during the height of the pandemic to support school leaders and teachers in addressing student trauma. The documentary and curriculum share how trusted relationships are the most immediate and potent antidote to the damaging effects of stress and trauma that so many students, families and teachers are navigating.

Angst is a film program designed to help people identify and understand the symptoms of anxiety and encourage them to reach out for help. It weaves personal stories with expert perspectives and includes interviews with youth, educators, experts, parents and decorated Olympian Michael Phelps.

Look at Me Now is an inspirational short story and conversation series featuring youth sharing how finding their path to hope was possible despite the emotional challenges they faced. Each story concludes with a guided discussion to help the audience engage their own story of hope.

The CalHOPE Schools Initiative works closely with the other components of CalHOPE, particularly CalHOPE Student Support, which partners with the Sacramento County Office of Education and University of California, Berkeley Greater Good Science Center. CalHOPE Student Support engages communities of practice to promote positive social-emotional learning in all 58 counties.

“We know it’s been a difficult few years, and our school communities need positive, evidenced-based,easily accessible mental health and wellness resources,” said Justine Fischer, CalHOPE Schools Initiative community director.

CalHOPE programs focus on creating trusted spaces, building resilience and recognizing the signs of mental stress and duress. A monthly forum with an expert in health or education will take place on the fourth Tuesday of each month.

“These resources are vital tools for schools, and together they engage staff, students and families to support their own mental health and well-being, and that of their communities,” said Jim Kooler, special consultant for DHCS and CalHOPE.

Registration and resources are available for free at