By Natalie Sarsfield
Everything seemed to be going well for Jason Finuliar. The Filipino-American high school student from Fremont, California had exceptional grades and was president of the debate club. But a year into the pandemic, he began to show symptoms of mental illness, and his family struggled to find the right path forward for Jason.
Jason’s story, told in this gripping account from writer Linda Jacobson of The74, is familiar to many parents and students alike. During the pandemic, forced to attend school virtually, students missed out on socialization, a key source of happiness and stability. Without in-person learning Jason’s interest in extracurricular activities and school plummeted. Even when pandemic worries largely faded, Jason and countless other young people still struggled to overcome mental health challenges and return to normal education and social settings.
“Connection to one another is a core need for all of us. Having that stripped away is traumatizing, [some teens] may never fully recover from what they have lived through these past few years,” says Steinberg Institute CEO, Karen Larsen.
Karen outlined the opportunity for California’s youth in this CalMatters OpEd, highlighting innovative approaches to mental wellness and mental health treatment for youth.
For young people who are struggling and their families, it can be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. In Jason’s case, the pandemic unearthed an understanding of mental illness in his family, and slowly but surely, he is making positive progress.
“We are all a little bit more aware of mental wellness,” his mother, Carol Finuliar, told The74. “It is so hard to accomplish anything when you’re depressed. The healing process is so slow, it’s painful.”
As of now, Jason is attending Ohlone Community College in Fremont with hopes of eventually transferring to UC Berkeley.
Read Jason’s powerful story here.