On a recent evening, the newly refurbished SafeSpace meeting room was filled with high school and college students, members of the organization's Youth Advisory Board, which was meeting for the second time. The smell of pizza overlaid the smells of fresh paint and new floors as the room filled with friendly chatter.
The youth board is a key feature borrowed from the Australian headspace, with the students advising the organization on everything from room decor and art for the walls to its brand and message.
About two dozen students from Menlo-Atherton, Woodside, Menlo, Sacred Heart Preparatory and Nueva high schools -- as well as Menlo College students -- are on the board.
The students work with an administrator at each school who will help them set up SafeSpace clubs and plan how to share its message. Middle schools will eventually be included.
After scarfing down pizza and drinks, and a brainstorming "design thinking" session to help design a SafeSpace logo, the students were asked by SafeSpace CEO Chris Tanti to talk about challenges in their lives.
"I'm not sure how many of you actually realize how challenging this period of your life is," he said. "Our parents escort us to this point, and then you have to make it on your own."
School, the students said, is their biggest challenge.
"If you're not getting As and Bs, you're not succeeding," said Maddie Maxwell from Menlo Park, a junior at Menlo-Atherton.
Parents, said Lauren Molitz from Menlo Park, a sophomore at Woodside High School, "have just accepted that this is reality. They don't realize how crazy school really is."
Miranda Mueller, a sophomore at Menlo-Atherton from Menlo Park, said students "look at their parents' success and they want that for themselves."
"You push yourself more than you should," she said.
Audrey Harris of Menlo Park, a freshman at Menlo-Atherton High School, said students often feel "like you're not doing enough."
Mr. Tanti asked the students to help him think about how SafeSpace could best communicate with the community and within their schools.
"I want as many kids to know about this place as possible," he said. "I want as many parents to know about this place as possible."
Sarah Pistorino, a Sacred Heart Preparatory freshman from Menlo Park, said the students should share their personal stories, "making it relatable to other kids."
"Every person goes through something different," she said.
Maddie Maxwell said the message needs to "destigmatize" mental health problems. "Everyone's issues kind of start small," she said, adding that she wants the message to be that "anyone that's having a little bit of trouble (can) come here."
Alina Kalmeyer, a sophomore at Menlo-Atherton High School from Menlo Park, said "we need it not to be about sick people who are different from us."
"The key thing for us," said Mr. Tanti, is to make sure people "get help when they need it."
"One in four kids your age are going through problems."