We are thrilled to feature Lorry Belhumeur, CEO for Western Youth Services on this #Giving Tuesday! She is a champion for mental health and is dedicated to bringing hope, healing and prevention to children and families. Her faithfulness and passion are contagious and we know you will enjoy her story! With so many amazing programs they are looking to fund, check them out on Give4 under "Local" for ways you can partner to bring their programs to more children and families in and around Orange County.
1. When did you become involved with Western Youth Services and what led you to their organization?
I experienced an unhappy childhood with challenging and abusive family relationships, after a series of unfortunate events in my teens, I realized I was on my own. From an early age, I felt very strongly that I needed to help other children in similar situations which led me to studying to become a psychologist. My association with WYS started early on in my career as a psychologist. After completing my Ph.D. I began working for WYS as a psychologist.
2. How has becoming involved in mental health changed your perspective on the issue?
I learned how many children, families, and communities are impacted by undiagnosed or untreated mental health concerns. The numbers are staggering 1 in 5 children are living with some kind of mental illness. In 2016 we worked with 55,000 clients, directly or through one of our collaborative partnerships... and it is not enough, there are so many more that need help.
My perspective is that mental health awareness needs to grow significantly and there is so much that can be done by caring adults. I am constantly reminded of how WYS began in 1972 led by a group of community leaders that saw a need for someplace for teens to go to stay out of trouble. The same can be done in any community, we all have children in our lives and knowing how to keep a watchful eye on changes in their behavior, knowing some basic skills on the warning signs, how to help, what not to do, and when and where to reach our for professional help can make all the difference in the world.
Teachers, schools, and other youth serving organizations are so important in the healing equation. These are people who are with our children and teens often more than we are with our own kids. They are on the front lines and have the unique perspective of literally "watching" our children. They will often see things a parent or guardian might miss.
WYS has worked closely with school districts in Orange County, CA since the 1970s and together we have changed the trajectory of the lives of 1000s of child and their families. I have the privilege of speaking with past clients, who were provided services at school and in the community, even those who were clients decades ago that credit their time at WYS as a life saver. Teachers rave about how our training and consultation services help them be better equipped to handle disruptive classroom behaviors. Teachers are champions for youth. I attribute my success to teachers who went above and beyond to meet my emotional needs as well as the educational ones.
3. What would you say is the number one cause of mental health issues in our society today?
Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are correlated with higher likelihood of suicide attempts. When left untreated, ACEs create toxic stress that is carried forth into adulthood and future generations are associated with a full range of mental health challenges. Children that are abused, neglected, misdiagnosed or whose well-being is uncared for in some way must learn that they have value, that their well-being matters, that even if the future feels bleak there are endless opportunities available to them, and that traumatic experiences that they have endured are not their fault. However, there is hope and I believe it is possible to reduce the instances of mental health crises and specifically suicide attempts by youth. Early intervention and building resiliency are the super-powers that help overcome adversity, break the generational cycle of abuse and dysfunction, and go on to live happy and fulfilled lives.
4. As you've been leading this organization, how has the generosity of others impacted you personally? What do you love to Give 4?
The many means of generosity of others are the reason this organization is healthy today. Business professionals donated their time and talents to help build infrastructure, put systems in place, up level our financial reporting, facilitate our strategic planning and on and on. The needs of the organization were way bigger than me and when these people jumped in to volunteer their valuable time and expertise I was astonished by their generosity. It motivated me to work harder to make the connection between the “back office work” and the positive outcomes that our clients are able to achieve. The financial generosity of others is icing on the cake. With financial support, we are able to get the proven strategies for mental wellness into the hands of teachers and other youth serving individuals who are overwhelmed by the disruptive behavior of some of their students and youth they serve. Financial generosity also helps us provide much needed help to parents. I give 4 the kiddos and their families. Period. Each one deserves the highest level of support possible to have a thriving successful future. It’s not just what I give 4, it’s what I live for.
Thank you Lorry for being a Champion!!!