Family Sanity, local support groups to offer online meetings

Families with vulnerable teens and young adults dealing with mental health issues face unique challenges in these times

Parents of teens and young adults who are dealing with mental health issues may be having a more difficult time than others during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Having everyone at home may lead to more family conflicts than usual. We’re seeing depression and anxiety rates increase dramatically. Also, job loss for someone with mental illness can be especially devastating,” says Lisa Scimens, founder of the Oakland-based non-profit Family Sanity (

Family Sanity along with Willows in the Wind and SF Parent Support have joined together to offer weekly parent support meetings LIVE, online via The parent lead groups are conducted by the organizations’ leaders or trained facilitators as well as certified parent coach, Sarah MacKay Lynch. “The use of technology is enabling our groups to help parents beyond our usual geographic areas of Los Altos, Oakland and San Rafael,” says Janet Rao, Director of Willows in the Wind, which she founded 13 years ago.

“The problems our families face are everywhere, so we are happy to be able to offer our services on a wider scale, “ she adds. The three groups address the support and needs of parents of teens/young adults who struggle with suffer from anxiety/depression and mental health conditions as well as substance abuse and school refusal. In some cases, the young person has been to a wilderness program, residential treatment center or a therapeutic boarding school.

Natasha Lavine adds, leader of SF Parent Support who is also Director of Outreach of SF NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness). “Parents who come to us often feel alone and as if they cannot talk about the turmoil their families are facing with their friends. Confidential, safe meetings with others who understand what they are going through can be extremely helpful and comforting. The new, online format for these meetings makes them convenient as well.”

Parent coach Mackay Lynch adds, “Many parents are not used to dealing with their challenging teens all day long since they are usually at work.

Some techniques that may help include setting up a routine and having short family check-ins at breakfast and lunch to discuss everyone’s goals for the day and responsibilities. Be sure to make these meetings an opportunity to connect as well as to add structure, and avoid wrangling over homework or chores.

Remember, ‘connection over correction.’ A smile and a warm greeting are a better way to start the day than, ‘Did you get your homework done?’ The latter can happen, but especially now, front load encounters with your kids with plenty of love and humor. And call your friends if you need to gripe about your kids!”

The next online meeting will be lead by SF Parent Support. It will take place on the first Sunday of the month, as usual, on April 5 at 4pm.

For a complete list of the other parents support zoom meetings, please go to or or email

Contact: Lisa Scimens at or 415-309-1001.

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