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Saratoga, Los Gatos organizations put on first-ever mental health fair

San Jose Mercury News - 9/6/2022

With more people suffering from depression and anxiety since the start of the pandemic, this year’s Health Fair in Saratoga — back from a two year hiatus– will have a special focus on mental health.

To “stop the stigma” around mental health and highlight local resources, the Saratoga Area Senior Coordinating Council partnered with Los Gatos High School’s Counseling and Support Services for Youth to host the free event 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the school on Sept. 10. It is open to all ages.

“Coming out of the pandemic … there was just an overwhelming need to do something,” SASCC’s Executive Director Tylor Taylor said. “We want people to feel comfortable seeking out help.”

Anxiety and depression rose by 25% worldwide since the start of the pandemic, according to the World Health Organization. More than a third of high school students said they experienced poor mental health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

About 30% of Los Gatos residents over 60 live with depression, according to a SASCC survey, and 80% of residents over 60 said they do not have access to quality mental health care.

Taylor said he hopes the event, which will be held at Los Gatos High School located at 20 High School Court, breaks down stigma and offers helpful resources to residents.

County Supervisor Joe Simitian, Los Gatos Mayor Rob Rennie and Councilmember Marico Sayoc will speak at the event and hand out awards for community service. More than 45 local organizations are expected to be represented at the event, including AARP, Red Cross, County Fire, and Next Door Solutions to Domestic Violence.

The event also will offer mental health workshops, pet adoptions, art therapy, ice cream, flu shots and even feature a dunk tank.

“What we wanted to do with this health fair is look, we’ve all experienced [the pandemic] together, why don’t we come take a look at mental health…destigmatize having mental health issues… and learn how to get support, but in a very uplifting, fun environment with lots of resources and experts that can educate and inspire,” Taylor said.

The organizers also made an effort to include activities that will attract kids and young people, like bounce houses and free ice cream.

SASCC hosted health fairs in the past that focused on senior and general health from 2017 to 2019, but like many other events took a pause during the pandemic. It brought the event back with an emphasis on mental health for the first time.

“These things that we have all faced as a society — the isolation, being cut off, not really knowing what to trust and what not to trust in your online sources, being confused about how to move forward in life —  these are things older adults have struggled with,” Taylor said.

SASCC leaders also plan to announce their newest pilot program — yet to be named — that will offer local seniors a collection of online courses on everything from food and wine pairings to how to get back into the workforce.

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The organization also worked with then-president of the college Brad Davis to designate WVC as the nation’s first and only age-friendly community college campus.

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