Guiding students through life’s storms


This month’s Member Spotlight is an excerpt from the new Employee Mental Health Wellness Study 2020.

PICTURED AT RIGHT: Blue Shield of California launched the BlueSky program to offer support for student mental health challenges and boost youth resiliency. In 2020, it celebrated graduating seniors from 19 BlueSky schools across the U.S.

Blue Shield of California knows that mental health is just as important as physical health and prides itself on its dedication to combating mental health issues in both its employees and local communities. In particular, Blue Shield of California’s BlueSky initiative supports mental health for middle- and high-school students in California by providing mental health clinicians in schools, training teachers on the signs of mental health issues, and empowering students with mental health support resources.

Unmet mental health needs rank among the most pressing concerns for educators across the nation. Up to 1 in 5 students in the U.S. has a serious mental or behavioral health need, and in many cases, there are not enough school counselors to support them. In California, on average, every school counselor is responsible for 600 students, more than double the recommended average. The BlueSky program empowers students across the state with the skills and support that will help them get through life’s storms, knowing blue skies are ahead.

BlueSky builds youth resilience by supporting programs that focus on emotional competence, social connections, and concrete support. These three protective factors were developed by the Center for the Study of Social Policy, a national nonprofit policy organization, as part of its research-based Strengthening Families Framework. Such factors are essential in the development of strong mental health, and make the greatest impact at a young age. “At Blue Shield of California, we know the essential role mental and emotional health play in a person’s overall well-being, starting in childhood,” said Paul Markovich, president and CEO of Blue Shield of California. “Our goal through Blue Shield of California BlueSky is to empower and support students by helping them develop resilience and emotional well-being today, so they have a lifetime of good health in front of them.”

Blue Shield of California has taken steps within the California school systems to improve the mental health of students, such as bringing additional mental health clinicians into schools to enhance access to care. Working with nonprofit Wellness Together, this service is available in 19 middle and high schools, reaching more than 20,000 students across the state. Since launch, more than 500 counseling sessions have taken place and tele-counseling sessions are available when schools are closed. Similarly, working with the California Department of Education, BlueSky funds Youth Mental Health First Aid Training for thousands of public-school teachers and staff.

In service of student needs, Blue Shield of California has collaborated with the California affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to support the expansion of student-led clubs in high schools throughout the state. NAMI on Campus clubs raise mental health awareness and reduce stigma in schools through peer-led activities, education, and advocacy. In response to COVID-19, Blue Shield of California is building online resources into BlueSky for reducing stress and anxiety while social distancing.

Between its direct work within the California school systems and its efforts to help students understand the signs and stigmas of mental health, Blue Shield of California is actively working toward the health and well-being of all. Mental health is no longer meant to be ignored or pushed aside, but rather, with the help of BlueSky, understood and faced by everyday people looking to better the lives of themselves and those around them.

In the webinar below, learn more about Blue Shield of California’s Blue Sky program from Kimberley Goode, Senior Vice President of External Affairs, and Bryce Williams, Vice President of MindBody Medicine, both at Blue Shield of California.

Read about corporate efforts to address mental health among employees and in their communities in the new Employee Mental Health Wellness Study 2020.