HomeUncategorizedDidi Hirsch Debuts ‘Our Third Place’ Youth Center

Didi Hirsch Debuts ‘Our Third Place’ Youth Center

A longtime provider of mental health services in Southern California, Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services, recently opened its drop-in youth center, Our Third Place, in Glendale.
Program Director Heather Sardella explained that the center’s namesake stems from the desire to create a safe place for youth to exist, a space between home and school or work, where they can find access to mental health services or simply hang out and find community.
A dream of Sardella’s for the last decade, Our Third Place “provides a safety net foundation for our youth,” she said, highlighting the amenities designed to meet youth’s basic needs and the designated spaces for bonding and creative exploration.
Amenities include laundry machines, a shower, hygiene kits, a fully stocked kitchen with appliances, a dining table, computers and work spaces, a relaxation room, a vanity station, art and music rooms, and a spacious living room with TV and video game access.
In addition to these features, Our Third Place offers everyone who walks through its doors case management services, where staff assist clients with finding stable housing, employment and educational/vocational programs, as well as developing life skills such as how to do laundry and cook. Case managers can also set up youth with affordable mental health services.
While Our Third Place makes case management readily available, Sardella says it’s often a slow build before youth are ready to jump right in. Young clients may simply start by stopping by the center for a meal once a week before getting more involved.
“We are trying to create a place where [youth] can come, connect and build community and also build relationships with trusting adults,” Sardella said.
If youth do decide to opt in to case management, Sardella explained that staff will conduct a needs assessment and create an action plan driven by what each client is looking to achieve at this stage in their life.
“It’s all about defining what they want, not what we see for them, but what they want and what they’re articulating,” she said.
The opening of Our Third Place comes at a significant time as young people are still working through mental health struggles amplified by the pandemic, Sardella said. She also noted that the age group the center serves, 15-25, is particularly “receptive” once they feel they can trust mental health providers, which can lead to “profound impacts” on their quality of life.
“It’s such an important time of your life and if you’re struggling with mental health, it derails you from all of the other things that you’re learning for self-efficacy, career making and [transitioning into adulthood],” Sardella said.

The living room at Didi Hirsch’s Our Third Place features plush sofas, access to TV and video games, and beanbag chairs creating a space for young people to relax. – Photo by Kennedy Zak / Glendale News-Press

Avery, who asked to be identified by her first name only for privacy, is a teenager who frequents Our Third Place. She, too, emphasized the lingering effects the pandemic has had on young people’s mental health.
“[Having Our Third Place] is very important because there’s such a mental health crisis on college campuses, especially since the pandemic,” Avery told the News-Press. “We need that support, somewhere safe where we can go to do homework, take showers and just get our basic needs met.”
Avery comes to Our Third Place every day after school to work on and/or receive help with homework, play video games with peers and participate in art projects. Having been interested in art ever since she was a child, Avery appreciates the supportive environment of Our Third Place’s art group, which she said is full of positivity as participants consistently uplift and compliment each other’s work.
“I’ve tried to let go of perfectionism with my art and I’m learning that through the art group,” Avery said. “I’m doing a lot more abstract pieces that make me feel happier and I figured out what I like in art. It’s a really fun environment.”
Throughout Our Third Place, youth will find bright colored furniture and decor, stuffed animals and positive phrasing, though Sardella said staff decided to keep wall decorations to a minimum. This was intentional, Sardella noted, to allow art created in the center to slowly fill out the interior.
Sardella highlighted creative outlets, such as music and art, which provide youth with a way to express their feelings and shed light on their mental health, while also gaining confidence by producing things they are proud of. The center’s music room features a number of instruments, recording equipment and computers for music production.
Group therapy sessions are another service Our Third Place brings to youth. These sessions allow individuals to see that they are not alone or isolated in their feelings, which Sardella says leads to “bonding” and “healing.”
“You get into these spaces and hear people’s stories and it’s like, ‘Wow, it’s not just me,’” Sardella said. “And it’s not just the therapists doing the work. It’s also the youth really coming together and helping each other.”
Since opening last month, Our Third Place has seen a steady flow of youth visiting the center, with an uptick in recent weeks, Sardella said. Feedback from those exploring the center’s space has been positive.
“I genuinely love the staff here,” Avery said. “I appreciate them a lot and really value them.”
Above all else, Sardella said, she wants youth in the community to know that they can always turn to Our Third Place for support.
To learn more, visit didihirsch.org/our-third-place/.

The music room in Our Third Place offers youth the chance to experiment with playing instruments and recording music. – Photo courtesy Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services

First published in the April 13 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.

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