Phebe Cox grew up in what might seem an unlikely mental health danger zone for a kid: tony Palo Alto, in the heart of Silicon Valley. But behind its facade of family success and wealth, she said, is an environment of crushing pressure on students to perform. By 2016, when Cox was in middle school, Palo Alto had a teen suicide rate four times the national average.
Cox’s family lived by the railroad tracks where many of the suicides occurred. She got counseling. But that option, she said, is not always easily available to teens in crisis — and she and her peers regarded school mental health services as their last choice because of concerns about either confidentiality or anonymity.
A new program, designed largely by the people who use it, provides an alternative. Called Allcove, it offers stand-alone health and wellness sites to those ages 12 to 25, often on a walk-in basis, at minimal or no cost. Although Allcove is built to support a wide range of physical, emotional and social needs, its overarching goal is to deal with mental health challenges before they develop into deeper problems.
Allcove is yet in its infancy, with two sites just opened in the Bay Area and five more in the pipeline around California. It’s modeled on a 15-year-old program in Australia, Headspace, which has 130 such clinics. Headspace has inspired programs in other countries as well, including Jigsaw in Ireland and Foundry in Canada. All of them, including Allcove, also offer online and phone services.
Allcove’s core values resonate with Cox, now 19 and a student at Pitzer College in Claremont (Los Angeles County) and one of dozens of young people who have offered advice on the program’s structure and services.
“Right away, I knew it was going to be a big thing,” Cox said. “I felt pretty helpless as a young teenager, but Allcove is all about the students and the students’ needs.”
About half of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14, and 75% before age 25, according to researchers. Yet access to mental health care in the U.S. is lacking. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, some 30 million adults and …….