Teen open mic night helps break mental health barriers at Allcove Beach Cities
Monday, March 27, 2023
Beach Cities Health District's latest endeavor strives to take the stigma out of seeking mental health support

By LISA JACOBS | ljacobs@scng.com | Daily Breeze

The stage is small. The space is enormous. The teens are enthusiastic as they sing, tell jokes, recite poems and stories. The youth are there for a monthly “Open Mic” night hosted by provider Indivisible Arts.

It’s one of several scheduled programs at the recently-opened Allcove Beach Cities haven.

A group of about 25 or so teens have been joining in on the fun since Beach Cities Health District started offering the program last month, said Kerianne Lawson, BCHD’s chief programs officer.

And, the scene can be infectious, she said. Some youth come to the event strictly intending to be “only” an audience member. The next thing you know, they’re up on stage.

Technically, Allcove is a center for free mental and physical health services for those 12-to-25 years old. It’s located on BCHD’s campus on the fourth floor at 514 N. Prospect Ave. But, conceptually, Allcove is something else.

Allcove is really more a state of mind, said Lawson during a recent tour of the calm, but colorful and cheery 8,000 square-foot-space.

In addition to open mic nights, Allcove offers movie nights, a game night, study lounge time and an upcoming eight-week youth grief support session.

Teens in particular are creatures who desire to be part of something, but they also have a deep need to be alone. And Allcove gives them both, serving as a sort of triage for sussing out what’s needed.

Do you need a quiet space to relax? A way to integrate with other teens? A recommendation for a therapist? Judgement-free advice about sexually transmitted disease? Treatment for substance abuse? Allcove offers all of it, with the help of community partners such as Body Project, Creative Life Mapping and Richstone Family Center.

On Saturday, March 25, part of the Allcove space was transformed to provide seating around the stage for the open mic event.

But, usually, the room with a view of the Pacific Ocean contains private, cocoon chairs where you can chill unseen, but still “see” what’s going on in the room. Conversely, there are large conversation-inducing couches for those who want to socialize.

If you flip a card up saying you’re open to approach, an Allcove employee might make small talk. If you flip the card to the other side, noone will bother you.

But, on Saturday, it was all about sharing talent and making mental health cool.

For more information about Allcove Beach Cities, its schedule and services, visit allcove.org/centers/beach-cities.