News

Urban Beats: De-stigmatizing mental illness and exploring the creative arts

March 09, 2018

Young person looking at artwork

“Urban Beats has taught me to love myself and never give up on seemingly unobtainable dreams. Here I feel safe and free to think big and change the outlook and stigma of mental illness,” says Autumn, a young adult who's participated in an innovative artistic expression program offered by Urban Beats. The program serves for transitional age youth (TAY)–young adults between the ages of 16 and 25 who are at risk of experiencing a mental health challenge.

Urban Beats' mission to utilize the arts and social media as a platform for transitional age youth to freely express themselves so that they may improve their wellness and self-sufficiency. The organization does this efficiently by creating a safe, trauma-informed space, so the young adults can work to de-stigmatize mental illness and explore the creative arts and job opportunities within the community.

“Urban Beats is a peer-run program, which means the organization is staffed by individuals who have experience with mental health, either through personal experience or education,” says Kara Dirks, Urban Beats Youth Support Partner Lead shares as drums beat in the background against the laughter of young adults expressing themselves in class. “This allows Urban Beat’s staff not only to relate but also to empower young adults to pursue creative passions. “

Urban Beats offers a free 20-week program throughout central and southeastern San Diego. The courses use a multi-tiered approach by including artistic expression, workshops and one-on-one coaching to focus on:

  • Healthy relationships
  • Wellness
  • Leadership development
  • Employment readiness

Wall mural

Urban Beats recently received a contract expansion from San Diego County, which has tripled their staff and allowed them to expand the organization immensely. With the additional team, they plan to do more outreach and serve 800 TAY youth this year.

Urban Beats has made it a cornerstone of their operations to go out and engage where transitional age youth are, rather than wait for them to come through the door. “Waiting might work for some organizations, but reaching this specific demographic can be challenging at times, so we go out and connect and make sure our services are accessible to the people that need them the most.”

Urban Beats partners with local mental health service providers and offers free training on non-traditional points of connection, trauma-informed care and ways to break down systemic barriers that service providers may face. These resources give organizations a better understanding of how to reach, connect and serve TAY.

What’s more, Urban Beats also offers free entertainment for the community. The organization has its own studio and AV system, which they have used to DJ, host open mics and offer other entertainment services for events, including the San Diego Workforce Partnership’s upcoming Opportunity Summit. Urban Beats will be performing at the forthcoming summit on Thursday, April 12 to tell the story of transitional age youth and help de-stigmatize mental illness. They will also display a resource table, where attendees can see some of their projects and meet young adults who’ve participated in the program. RSVP here.