Wellness, Health Promotion & Prevention

Fairfax County, Virginia

CONTACT INFORMATION: Mon. – Fri., 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

TTY 711

8221 Willow Oaks Corporate Drive
Fairfax, Virginia 22031

Marla Zometsky,

Youth-led anti-stigma mini-grants

Chalkboard with "Stand up to stigma - let's talk about mental health" written on it

The Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board (CSB) is offering its annual mini-grants for youth-led projects to reduce stigma among their peers, with support from the Suicide Prevention Alliance of Northern Virginia (SPAN), which is funded by the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services.

These mini-grants will fund youth-planned, youth-led projects within Fairfax County, Fairfax City, and Falls Church City, to be completed by June 9, 2023.  A total of $6,000 is available, for requests not to exceed $1,000 each.

 “These mini-grants offer our youth the opportunity to take ownership of the positive change they’d like to see in how we discuss and engage with mental health concerns”, says Chad Christian, WHPP team’s mini grant coordinator.

"Youth are our leaders. Their voices are a powerful tool for change and these grants can support them as they lead the way to reduce the stigma associated with mental health concerns and prevent suicide”, adds Marla Zometsky, Manager of CSB Wellness, Health Promotion & Prevention services.  In addition to the goal of reducing the stigma around mental illness, the mini-grants also aim to promote help-seeking behaviors. While mental health concerns and disorders are common, frank discussions about them are not a common occurrence. Suicide is the third leading cause of death in youth ages 10-24. "Far too often, stigma prevents people from getting the care they need and deserve. Stigma, coupled with stressors of our experiences during the pandemic, trauma and systemic racism, further impacts our physical and mental health,” says Zometsky.

Take A Look AT How Our 2022 Cohort Utilized Their Stigma Reduction Mini Grants:

Portable Comfort Classroom: The Mount Vernon High School Chapter of Our Minds Matter utilized their mini grant to fund the Portable Comfort Classroom. The Portable Comfort Classroom is an initiative designed to provide students with an opportunity to attend student-led small groups, club meetings, and wellness workshops that are centered around stress management, to include coping with stress as well as reducing current stress. The PCC provided a space that not only promotes wellness but does so in a way that is not limited to any single location. This reinforces the notion that mental wellness can be prioritized anywhere and everywhere. While 75 students participated during this grant cycle, this group intends to continue this program for years to come.

Comfort Classroom

Manup Mental Awareness: The Psi Alpha Alpha Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated used their Stigma Reduction Mini Grant to fund the Manup Mental Awareness Mentoring Program. The MANUP mentoring program met 3 times (February, March, and April 2022) over a 12-week period to discuss mental health/wellness in student/teen led discussions to 100+ teens from John Lewis, Mount Vernon, and West Potomac high schools. Students used current social events that included Kanye West, Will Smith, fights that incurred in school, and how students should manage their emotions. Students discussed the importance of mental wellness and stereotypes that are associated with depressions, sadness, anger, and thoughts of suicide. The mentees report increased levels of comfort in discussing mental health and wellness issues, both personally and within society. They also can identify accurate statistical data on mental health to dispel false information and stereotypes through identification of fact-based websites that provide accurate mental health data points. Finally, the youth displayed increased leadership skills as evidenced by their ability to engage peers when relaying new information about mental health, while decreasing stigmatizing messaging. 


Youth Mental Health Documentary Project: Hear our voices hosted and lead multiple workshops and discussions aimed to destigmatize the topic of mental health across youth and adults. The Hear Our Voices team planned the workshops and discussions. Through a series of presentations on mental health and discussions that challenged the perspectives of participating young adults, they were able to educate and bring to light the severity of several mental health issues, such as depression and generational trauma. Hear Our Voices also directed and produced an original documentary film, “A Day In Her Life”, revealing the day in a life of an Asian-American high school student. Though the film doesn’t approach mental health from a traditional “problem-solving” perspective, it aims to provide relief and hope to youth experiencing mental health issues. This video has a reach of 400 young people, and Hear Our Voices aims to continue their promotion to increase awareness!

A Day In Her Life Documentary: https://youtu.be/_fOUilBRscQ

Wake Up Step Up Reston: Wake Up Step Up Reston, led by Eshraga Abdon and Maryam Mahmood, served approximately 120 students throughout a four-week period spanning July and August 2022,  across six properties in Reston (Island Walk, Cameron Crescent, Cedar Ridge, West Glade, and Stone Gate) and one property in the City of Fairfax (West Wood Oaks), educating youth on how to combat stigma, increase suicide awareness, and promote help seeking behavior. The youth instructors created program “goody” bags for each registered child. Eshraga and Maryam then, with the support of additional youth and adult volunteers, hand delivered each bag containing important information as well as incentives for participation. Eshraga and Maryam chose to provide information about important subjects through themed weeks, which included: a mental health overview, stress management/resilience, compassion and gratitude, and physical health. In their third year of implementation, this group has not only retained previous participants but also expanded their programming with goals of continued expansion and growth.

The Mindfulness Spot: The Mindfulness Spot at Mount Vernon High School will transform an unused room near the school’s cafeteria into a relaxing and safe space for students to go before school, during their lunch break, or during their study period (Major Time) to de-stress, unwind, and talk with peers to reduce stigma around mental health. This room will be equipped with flexible seating, white noise machines, coping strategies (such as stress balls, coloring books, journals, etc.), a dry erase board, and positive quotes to provide a relaxing ambiance and stress-free environment where students feel free to express themselves and have a place to relax during the school day.

Buttons Unite Students: The project will be students making their own buttons with their own design. Jack Barnes, the projects creator, will provide the students of Holmes Middle School with the materials to make their own custom buttons representing why they believe in getting rid of mental illness stigma.

 Mental Health/Suicide Awareness Prevention Walk: The project will consist of a workshop ran by the youth to educate others about mental health and resources available to those with mental health concerns. The overall purpose of the suicide awareness prevention walk is to raise awareness about mental health and suicide prevention within their community.

Wellness Kits: The NAMI Northern Virginia Youth Leadership Council would like to put together wellness kits to share with FCPS youth. These wellness kits will include items that can be used to build coping strategies for their mental health–such as journals, puzzles, and coloring utensils. Each kit will also include a brochure with information on mental health, statistics, and resources available. This brochure will be made by youth for youth, with the type of information teens would like to have on hand. The kits will be distributed to teens in Fairfax County through school contacts.

YouthFest 2022: NAMI Northern Virginia YouthFest is a biannual event at NAMI Northern Virginia, planned and led by local teen and young adult volunteers. YouthFest brings together teens, young adults, and families for a fun family-friendly event that aims to combat stigma by normalizing conversations around mental health.

Proposals are due December 12, 2022 and awardees will be announced Friday, December 16, 2022

Review the Request for Proposals - RFP Word Document to find out how to apply, and email csbprevention@fairfaxcounty.gov with questions.

Contact Information

Contact for news media inquiries: Lisa Flowers, Communications Director, 571-474-5435 (cell) or 703-324-7006 (office).

Important Dates

Request for Proposals Released November 14, 2022
Proposals Due December 12, 2022 (DEADLINE EXTENDED)
Awards Announced December 16, 2022
Invoice and W2 due December 9, 2022
Project Period Begins December 12, 2022
Project Period Ends June 2, 2023
Project Report Due June 9, 2023

Fairfax Virtual Assistant