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Exploring Free Mental Health Services for Youth in California

Many free mental health services for youth in California include hotlines, counseling services, and data libraries. Offering a range of mental health resources for youth that are evidence-based and easily accessible has been shown to improve the mental health of adolescents who are in distress and at risk of harming themselves. As the number of teens seeking mental health support rises, providing free support and information has never been more critical.

Contact BeWellLine by calling our help center at 866-349-0854 to learn more about using virtual mental health services.

The Landscape of Adolescent Mental Health in California

In the past six years, the number of teens in California who report being anxious or depressed has risen seventy percent. Between 2019 and 2021, one-third of them reported serious psychological distress. Fortunately, there are many mental health resources available to you through statewide programs, local initiatives, nonprofits, and community organizations.

Reaching Out: The California Mental Health Hotline

Calling a hotline is an effective way to create human connection, increase hope, and decrease the risk of suicide. Around 80% of callers indicate that they felt more hopeful, cared about, empowered, and less likely to attempt suicide 6-12 months after talking with a hotline counselor.

California's confidential mental health hotline is a "warm" line where callers receive immediate support from a trained crisis counselor 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can call the general mental health crisis line at 988 or text 741-741, where counseling and suicide prevention resources are available to all. During a call, a trained crisis counselor listens compassionately as they ask about what you're experiencing, assess your risk, determine possible supports, share coping strategies, and provide resources for immediate stabilization depending on your level of distress and your needs. Texting or calling CalHope at 833.317.4673 also connects you to support any time of the day or night.

Available Free Mental Health Services in California

As an increasing number of adolescents reach out for support and information in California, you have a vareity of mental health treatment options. In addition to the general crisis line, there is a peer "warm" line you can text or call at 866-349-085, where others who are thriving after mental health crises support and guide callers who are experiencing crises. Associated website 988 Help Yourself contains links to resources, including therapists and support groups, and guides you through creating a safety plan.  

California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA) created Each Mind Matters, which offers resources for Black and African American communities. CalMHSA also created Take Action for Mental Health, which provides resources for determining when and how to seek mental health support and making a plan to follow through. Other resources include Together for Wellness, a collaboration between mental health services, nonprofits, schools, health agencies, and foundations providing the best digital resources for your mental health and wellness. They are available to all and offer tailored resources depending on your population and experiences. 

Free Mental Health Services for Youth in California

Amplifying Youth Voices: California Youth Mental Health Initiatives

California's Youth Behavioral Health Initiative (CYBHI) aims to support the whole child by addressing all factors relevant to their mental health and well-being. It unites agencies and organizations that serve children and adolescents to create a more accessible support infrastructure wherever they are most likely to seek it. Efforts include ensuring coverage for youth mental health services, initiating public awareness campaigns to reduce stigma around struggling with mental health issues or reaching out for help, creating a larger and more representative workforce, and transforming the behavioral health system itself.

California Department of Health Care Services (DCHS) offers grants for students, a student behavioral health program; a behavioral health virtual services program with digital resources; mindfulness, well-being, and resilience grants; social-emotional learning opportunities and crisis counseling through text or chat by CalHOPE; and a youth peer-to-peer support program in high schools.

Contact BeWellLine by calling our help center at 866-349-0854 to learn more about using virtual mental health services.

Beyond Official Programs: Other Mental Health Resources for Teens

Nonprofit organizations, community support groups, and online platforms have worked to increase their capacity to provide mental health resources for teens in California since the pandemic. Organizations such as NAMI offer online resources for parents and teens to help them determine when and where to access mental health support and provide support groups in the community and in high schools for teens and families managing mental health issues. The California Endowment funds a youth mental health campaign and coalition building, and Friends of the Children in Los Angeles expanded its training and clinical support for professional youth mentors.

It can be overwhelming to sort through resources and determine what will best meet your needs. Calling BeWellLine at 866-349-6854 connects you with a caring listener who will help you take a comprehensive look at the free mental health services you qualify for. Their resources are trustworthy and easily accessible for youth ready to improve their mental health.

How to Access and Benefit from Free Mental Health Support

Seeking mental health support takes courage, but taking that first step often brings hope and empowerment. Calling a hotline or accessing online resources may be something you do just once, but ongoing therapy or treatment provides ongoing support that increases your likelihood of long-term stability. Once you choose the provider or program that best matches your needs, you can expect an initial consultation or assessment where a provider asks you to describe your symptoms, history, strengths, and goals. Consistent follow-up care ensures you get the support you need to increase your coping skills, decrease the impact of your symptoms on your health and your relationships, and create a plan for the ongoing well-being you deserve.

Frequently Asked Questions About Free Mental Health Services for Youth

Are the free mental health services confidential for youth?

Free mental health services are confidential for youth ages 12 and older.

What age group qualifies as 'youth' for accessing these services?

Some services are offered for youth ages 12-17, while others qualify youth as ages 12-21. Make sure to share your real age so that you're referred to appropriate services that are covered for your age group.

How do California's free mental health services compare to those of other states?

California has a strong network of free mental health services compared to many other states, from statewide initiatives to community and nonprofit organizations with a mission to serve teens and their mental health.

Can parents or guardians seek advice from these services on behalf of their children?

Parents and guardians may contact mental health services to ask what is available for their children, and some also have funding to support parents and families. Direct services such as crisis counseling and therapy may be designed only to serve youth, so it's important to ask for additional referrals if the adults or younger children in your family also need individual support.

Are there specialized services for particular mental health conditions?

There are specialized services designed for many populations and mental health conditions.

What if I need urgent mental health support outside of hotline hours?

Hotlines such as 988 are open to support you 24 hours a day, seven days a week, since crises can occur outside of typical business hours.

How can schools and colleges collaborate with these free services?

Schools and colleges benefit from collaborating with these services, and some are specially designed to implement support services in school settings. Providing students with evidence-based, accessible resources is an effective way to improve their well-being.

Call BeWellLine at 866-349-0854 to learn more about mental health services in California for youth today.

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