Tahquitz High School Mental Health Fair helps students

Marriage and family counselor Jessica Oakes and BARR coordinator talks to a student during the first Tahquitz High School Mental Health Fair conducted on campus Dec. 2. BARR, Building Assets Reducing Risks program at the high school helps students achieve their academic goals and learn how to improve their social skills. Tony Ault photo
Marriage and family counselor Jessica Oakes and BARR coordinator talks to a student during the first Tahquitz High School Mental Health Fair conducted on campus Dec. 2. BARR, Building Assets Reducing Risks program at the high school helps students achieve their academic goals and learn how to improve their social skills. Tony Ault photo

While some students worked to make “stress balls” others discovered there was help for them in domestic crisis or homelessness at Tahquitz High Schools first Mental Health Fair Friday, Dec. 2.

“This is a great turnout,” said Jessica Oakes, licensed marriage and family counselor at the high school. “So many students are connecting with the providers. There has been a lot of feedback.” The Mental Health Fair for the Tahquitz High students was conducted during the two lunch periods Dec. 2.


A circle of tables with representatives from a number of mental health care and education organizations were on hand to answer questions the student might pose about where they or their friends in crisis might find help and counseling.

The representatives passed out brochures and other informational items that could help the students and their families. Loma Linda University’s Behavioral Medicine Center representatives brought many students to their table. The students learned how to make their own “stress balls” out of balloons and flour and water. Other picked up their “Stressometer” cards that would tell them just how tense they were in different situations.

Oakes and Kelly Duggins, Building Assets Reducing Risks (BARR) coordinators at the school offered students raffle tickets for a $10 gift certificate at In and Out in town if they registered at the health fair.

When new freshman arrive at Hemet’s newest high school they learn about the advantages offered them through the BARR program and their teachers. The Mental Health Fair was one of the many BARR programs set up to help students, all students, freshmen to seniors earn all course credits needed to graduate, earn higher achievement scores, stay engaged in learning and to reduce the adverse effects of alcohol and other drugs.

At Tahquitz High there are BARR trained teachers who help blocks of students in their science, math and English classes. The teachers and students engage in collaborative problem-solving to identify interventions to assist them to improve. In addition to the school BARR staff the students have access to licensed mental health professionals like Oakes and Duggins who will support them in their freshman year and beyond. The BARR program has been active at the school for three years.

Among those providers Invited to the Health Fair at the high school were: Loma Linda University Behavioral Medicine Center, Riverside County Substance Abuse Prevention Services, Victor Outreach, San Jacinto Health Centers, NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), Molina Healthcare, Operation Safe House, Riverside University Health Services Behavioral Health, TAY program (Traditional Age Youth), Youth Advocates United to Succeed (YAUTS) and Each Mind Matters.

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