By Lori Butterworth

By now you’ve certainly heard the news.  At least one in five US adolescents is suffering from a diagnosable mental illness. Suicide is now the second leading cause of death for American teens. Anxiety, depression, and eating disorders surged among youth during the COVID19 pandemic. Leading children’s advocacy groups have declared a state of emergency, while US Surgeon General Vivek Murphy warns we all must do more to find solutions.

On Friday, April 29th, you’ll have the chance to learn about the most hopeful responses. The AIM Scientific Symposium: Care in the Crisis, will gather leading experts, parents and youth to tackle tough questions and forge solutions. The event may be attended remotely or in-person at the Sunset Center in Carmel, CA., from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a reception, youth art display, and award ceremony to follow.

Delivering the morning keynote at 9 a.m. will be “California’s Mental Health Czar,” Thomas R. Insel, MD. Dr. Insel, a pioneering neuroscientist, led research into mental illness for 22 years as director of the National Institute for Mental Health, and has recently been advising Gov. Newsom on mental health issues. Dr. Insel will speak about the “State of the State” of youth mental health in California and share from his latest book: “Healing: Our Path from Mental Illness to Mental Health,” an indictment of failures in the US mental health care delivery system and worsening rates of mental illness, despite  billions of dollars in federal investments.

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., you can learn from leading global  experts in youth mental health, including Dr. Stephen Hinshaw, Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, and a global authority on attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Hinshaw is the author of 13 books, most recently “Another Kind of Madness: A Journey through the Stigma and Hope of Mental Illness.” Dr. Hinshaw will tell us about the most recent breakthroughs in understanding ADHD.

Dr. John Piacentini, director of the UCLA Child OCD, Anxiety, Tic Disorders Clinic and Center for Child Anxiety Resilience, Education, and Support (CARES), will share evidence-based tools for parents to distinguish normal vs. abnormal anxiety and understand anxiety-related disorders like OCD. 

From UC San Diego, we’ll bring you Dr. Walter Kaye, a professor of psychiatry and founder and executive director of that university’s Eating Disorders Program. Dr. Kaye will talk about why anorexia nervosa now has the highest fatality rate of any psychiatric illness, and what scientists have been learning about new approaches to treat eating disorders.

Stanford University psychiatry professor Shashank Joshi, director of the university’s School Mental Health team, will share insights into trends in adolescent suicide prevention, including the status of direct mental health support for students and school staff, and offer opportunities for community-research collaborations.

Beginning at 2 p.m., the doctors will take questions from the audience, after which we’ll be delighted to present youth researchers participating in our AIM Ideas Lab.

Amid the mental health challenges plaguing their schools, some 90 youth signed on to the AIM Ideas Lab to be trained in research methodologies and conduct their own mental health research. The Ideas Lab teams created and distributed surveys to their peers to assess the situation from the youth perspective. 

At 3 p.m., youth Ideas Lab representatives including Citlalli Nava, a senior from North Salinas High School, Emilie Fernandez, a sophomore from Everett Alvarez High School, Gia Panetta, a sophomore from Carmel High School, Marley Miller, a freshman from Salinas High School, Michael Julian, a senior from York High School, and Roxy Bennett, a senior from Monterey High School, will take the stage to share what they’ve discovered about what and whom young people need most when experiencing mental-health problems. These six representatives, speaking on behalf of their young constituents, will make recommendations for the next steps all of us can take to help youth struggling with mental health challenges. 

At 4 p.m., Katherine Ellison, parent, Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, and author of several books on mental health, will moderate a panel discussion among parents who have shared the frustrating and sometimes even terrifying experience of searching for emergency treatment for their children.  These brave parent panelists, Jeff and Kathy Long, Jayne Smith and Martin Alonzo, have all been trained in Youth Mental Health First Aid, a program to empower parents and other caring adults to approach, listen, guide, encourage, and find help for youth. Audience members are invited to join the discussion.

Immediately following the parent discussion, join us for a wine and cheese reception hosted by the Carmel Sunset Rotary Club. At the 5 p.m. reception, young artists’ expressions of youth mental health challenges will be displayed. The youth will share their experiences designing the pieces and host conversations about their meaning. Prizes and awards will be presented by Dr. Deneen Guss, Monterey County Superintendent of Schools at 6 p.m.


The AIM Scientific Symposium: Care in the Crisis, is part of AIM’s mission to bridge the gap between research and access to care for youth struggling with their mental health by finding and funding evidence-based treatments, empowering youth to discover their own mental health solutions, and training caring adults to create a safe holding place for troubled youth.

 To register, visit:

To sponsor this event, please email Breanna Wilson:

The AIM Scientific Symposium: Care in the Crisis, is approved for 6 hours of Continuing Education by the APA through the Children’s Health Council (CHC).

  •     Psychologists: CHC is approved by APA to provide continuing education. CHC maintains responsibility for this program and its content
  •     For LCSWs and LMFTs, effective 7/1/17, the BBS[kE1] no longer has its own approved providers. Rather, the BBS will recognize CE classes offered by organizations approved by a few agencies, including APA.
  •     SLPs as required by the Speech-Language Pathology, Audiology & Hearing Aid Dispensers Board (PDP[kE2] ).

The Sunset Center is accessible for people with disabilities.  If you need special accommodations, please reach out to or call 831-372-1600.