An Interview with Christy Hayes, Executive Director of CASSY
Q: What is Counseling and Support Services for Youth (CASSY) about and what do you all do?
CH: CASSY partners with local schools to place competent, compassionate therapists on school campuses in order to reduce the stigma of mental health care and provide comprehensive mental health services to all enrolled students at no charge. We envision a world where students have the continuity of mental health support they need, from the first day of kindergarten until they graduate from high school, so they can be successful in school and in life.
We currently partner with 44 elementary, middle, and high schools throughout the Bay Area, providing a mental health safety net for over 33,000 children and adolescents. CASSY supports kids through individual, group, and family counseling, while also offering crisis support and intervention, staff and parent consultations, and classroom lessons on bully prevention, depression, and suicide awareness.
Q: What do you love most about CASSY and the work you all do?
CH: Hearing stories of hope and success from our therapists warms my heart. We shape kids’ outlook on life and provide them with an opportunity to talk through challenging situations while providing them with the social and emotional skills necessary to focus on school. Collectively, we are committed over 70,000 hours annually working with kids, their parents and teachers, and their communities to open the door to mental health support.
Q: How has CASSY made a difference and what impact do you still wish to see CASSY make?
CH: Twenty-percent of youth, a staggering 1.8 million kids in California, experience depression, anxiety, eating disorders, academic stress, low self-esteem, and substance abuse. Mental health issues cross socioeconomic boundaries and affect youth regardless of their financial resources. Studies have shown that students are far more likely to seek counseling when it is available at their school, especially if it is free. The best way to reach kids in need is to provide high-quality, mental health services directly on campus. Ninety-percent of students who engage in CASSY services improve their overall functioning; the vast majority of kids who receive the support we provide experience improved relationships with their peers and family, attend school more regularly, and report that counseling changed their lives. In partnership with school districts, their boards, service clubs, and educational foundations, we fund a portion of these paramount services. Due to limited community resources, we currently reach only one-third of the students who need mental health services.
Q: What is so special about CASSY and how can people make a difference?
CH: CASSY is the youth mental health leader for Bay Area communities and in the last year has expanded services to over 10,000 additional students in the communities served. This work is made possible by individuals, organizations, and corporations who believe in our mission and advocate for services in their community, whether it’s through financial support or connecting school communities who need us. We continue to seek ambassadors for youth mental health and communities who are committed to their youth!