Similar to the problems facing the medical health care workforce, the behavioral and mental health care workforce is also challenged with an alarming shortage of providers and an increase in consumers. Due to a combination of issues, including an increase of retirements among existing mental health professionals, the release of the 2010 Affordable Healthcare Act, the increase of mental illness in the general population and the still existing stigmas around mental health, the behavioral and mental health workforce is in dire need of providers and aid from the largest emerging generation of potential workers, the Millenials.

In response to these issues, the FACES Coalition developed and launched its inaugural Behavioral Health Undergraduate Summit (BHUS) in July 2016. BHUS was a unique opportunity for newly graduated high school students and current undergraduate students, many of whom were FACES alumni, to gain experience, training and professional development in the behavioral healthcare field during a time when most of them are still exploring career options.

This summer, due to the success of the inaugural summit in 2016, we held our second year of BHUS. In partnership with Samuel Merritt University and Alameda County Behavioral Health Care Services, the FACES Coalition offered this unique program to 30 college students from all over the Bay Area from July 10 – 21, 2017, hosted at Samuel Merritt University in Oakland, CA.

The focus was the same, structured to impact students in three key areas:


To ensure that the students left the program equipped and prepared with professional skills, workshops were provided around professional communication, such as email and phone etiquette, dos and donts on social media usage, etc. The program itself held the students to professional standards, such as requiring business casual attire, showing up on time and being fully present and engaged.

The students were also able to practice networking with professionals from the behavioral health field through career panels, student panels, and Q&A sessions.

Students with Career Panel

BHUS taught me different career paths that I can take regarding behavioral health. It has given me the opportunity to work with my peers who share the common goal which inspires me to explore the field even more.

Student Panel at CA Institute of Integral Sciences


Besides the career panels, to give the students a first-hand look into the field, they visited local behavioral health organizations. The first stop was to Youth Uprising, to learn about community mental health and the youth services that were provided to the East Oakland community. The second stop was the Native American Health Center. Here, they met professionals in the field and learned about integrative health care.

Visit to Youth Uprising in East Oakland

I have gained many valuable knowledge, experience and practice in the field of behavioral health through meetings with professionals, interactive workshops and tours during this program. BHUS is not only an educational program but provides us with a real insight into the career we are pursuing. The entire program is well organized and beneficial.

Visit to Native American Health Center in Oakland


Another important factor of the program was talking about mental health and breaking down the stigma that still surrounds it. The students were visited by a Speakers Bureau from PEERS (Peers Envisioning & Engaging in Recovery Services), in which they heard many recovery stories from consumers and were also able to craft their own personal stories in an effective and impactful way.

The students learned about the history, signs and symptoms of psychosis from PREP SF. To further explore psychosis, they were also involved in a simulation workshop on Schizophrenia called "Hearing Voices are Distressing". In that workshop, the students experienced having Schizophrenia while trying to complete daily tasks, such as putting together a puzzle, sitting through an interview, and making conversation with a stranger.

"Hearing Voices are Distressing" Workshop

BHUS did an amazing job at addressing the stigma that surrounds mental health. It gave a face to real world challenges that are not talked about in such a way that everyone in the program was able to confide and talk about their own experiences with mental health. It has also made me feel a sense of empowerment over my own mental health.

Student Presentations on the Last Day

See more photos from the program here:

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