Category Archives: Education

PCLG Coffee & Conversation with CANA

coffee-conversation

  • Saturday, November 11, 2017
  • 10:00am – 12:00pm
  • Creekview Recreation Center, Multipurpose Room
  • 5001 Humboldt Avenue North, Minneapolis

Are you raising a child who faces mental health challenges? We want to hear from you! Join the Center for Africans Now in America (CANA) and Parent Catalyst Leadership Group (PCLG)  for a chance to connect and converse over coffee and refreshments. All are welcome!

We will talk about interacting with your child’s school, working with health providers, and accessing services through the county.  What are the special challenges facing families new to our region?  

  • Free, but we ask you to RSVP.
  • Interpreter will be provided.
  • Children are welcome, but please let us know how many and what ages.

For more information, contact:

 

Secondary Trauma and Self Care

Raising children is challenging enough when everything is in place, but if a child has emotional, behavioral, or developmental disabilities, our lives can be very complicated.  We love our kids and delight in their strength areas, but outbursts or other difficulties might also frame our lives and those of our other children. Families may struggle from the effects of secondary trauma and stress, and balancing the needs of all of our children while still taking care of ourselves is a challenge.

carol-siegel Dr. Carol Siegel, PhD, LP, is a licensed clinical psychologist who sees both adults and children in her practice.  Her primary clinical focus is parenting. Her diverse experience includes expressive arts, autism, neuropsychological assessment, and child neuropsychology.  She focuses on how parents navigate the developmental challenges of childhood and how parents’ experiences affect the development of their children.

  • April 5, 2017
  • 6:30 -7:45 pm  Workshop & Discussion
  • Hosmer Library, Meeting Room
  • 347 East 36th Street
  • Minneapolis, MN

This event is free, but please register online or email us at hcpclg@yahoo.com.

Parenting Challenges: Taking Care of Yourself

 

Register Today!        November 2, 2016 – 6:30 pm

PCLG is sponsoring a free workshop for parents and caregivers this fall.   Join us for light refreshments and a chance to meet other parents while learning about how to take care of yourself! 

Parenting a child with emotional, behavioral, or developmental disabilities can be challenging.  Parents and caregivers often report exhaustion, financial strain, and feelings of isolation. The perception of stigma can increase the sense of burden and isolation that our families feel as well.

Dr. Elizabeth Reeve will share her unique insight into the effects that stress caElizabeth 2n have on parents and ways that we can learn to reduce its impact on us. Participants will learn:

  • What is stress?
  • The effects of chronic stress
  • Unique stressors for parents
  • Ways to reduce stress

 

  • Woodlake Nature Center
  • 6710 Lake Shore Drive
  • Richfield, MN

This event is FREE, but please register!

It Is Time to Change

A recent tragedy at my son’s school has reminded all of us of the urgency of reaching out to kids and  talking more openly about mental illness.

This short video from Britain is one of many great ways of starting conversations at your student’s high school:  The Squote-on-stigma-health-80-healthyplacetand-Up Kid

Check out other videos and the Time to Change Toolkit at Time to Change.org

A Visit with Generation Next

A recent blogpost at the Generation Next site got my attention.  The group is dedicated to resolving the achievement or opportunity gap between affluentGen Next logo1 and low-income students in Minneapolis and St. Paul, and they were announcing the addition of Social Emotional Learning to their set of initiatives.  Recognizing the difficulties children have with learning when they are anxious or depressed and when they have been exposed to stress and trauma in their lives, Generation Next is now tracking elements of social emotional well-being in metro area schools.  They want to learn more about how students view themselves and whether or not they have the ability to bounce back from making mistakes, like even the everyday mistakes you make when  you are in the process of learning math or any other subject.

As Beth Hawkins puts it in her MinnPost article on the subject:

“Social-emotional learning recently became Generation Next’s sixth identified priority — one that has the potential to influence the other five (which include: kindergarten readiness; 3rd grade reading benchmarks; 8th grade reading benchmarks; high school graduation; and post-secondary credential). Those are are big goals, but the initial work within them is discretely defined.”

“The effort’s data committee — made up of a Who’s Who of local education researchers — concluded that they needed to collect and analyze data on social-emotional learning.

The group partially funded data positions in both the St. Paul and Minneapolis districts to collect the relevant information. From that came some striking information. Predictably, the St. Paul numbers show drop-offs in skills between grades 5 and 8 in students’ commitment to learning and social competence, and especially in positive identity, with scant rebounds as those students move into high school.”

This got me so fired up that I called Generation Next and I suddenly was invited to attend one of their regular open forums. I really didn’t know what to expect.  A nice Step-Up intern named Abdul escorted us invited guests to a room with a very large table at the back of the United Way building.  At my forum, the other guests were from school districts, private companies, social service organizations, and, yes, a children’s mental health collaborative (that was me).   It was inspiring because we all care about the same issue and because the different perspectives and expertise brought to that big, shared table cast new light on the subject.

I shared with the group how my own passion stems from observing how special education students, particularly those with emotional behavioral disorders, often have the poorest outcomes.  Many do not have good access to mainstream teachers who are licensed in their particular subject area, and they can end up in a more secluded setting and not offered appropriately challenging and interesting subject material.   The poor performance and low graduation rates of this set of students is appalling, and getting these students the mental health services they need and a stimulating academic experience are crucial steps toward their being able to be successful. Moreover, these same kids are the ones most likely to be suspended or expelled from school.  They make up the highest proportion of those kids who drop out.

The problem of untreated or undertreated mental illness doesn’t just affect the low-income and minority students.  Even more affluent students don’t always get the help they need because of our lack of awareness, the difficulties families have with navigating the system, and the stigmatizing nature of mental illness.

So, yeah, I walked away from this meeting as a big supporter of Generation Next’s efforts.  And I’d like to see them partner with the Hennepin and Ramsey County Children’s Mental Health Collaboratives, as well as NAMI Minnesota and the Wilder Foundation.  I think we’d find that a big push on community wellness will do far more to fix the “achievement gap” than uniforms, charter schools, discipline, union contract reform, or any of the other “silver bullet” ideas that are so often floated. I also felt fired up to continue PCLG’s work to connect with other parents and disadvantaged communities to make sure more students have the opportunity to thrive.

How Are Some Students Raising Mental Health Awareness in Their High Schools?

PCLG parents have been spending some time these past few months learning about student-driven mental health awareness groups at area high schools.  It’s truly inspiring to hear how teenagers are leading efforts to erase stigma, create positive environments, and drive change in their schools and communities. Hats off to these students!Teensgroupcircle

Silver Ribbon Campaign (SRC)  – South High School, Minneapolis

SRC is a student-led group dedicated to supporting and educating students whose lives are touched by mental illness or who want to positively influence school culture.  SRC was founded 11 years ago by two students who had family members suffering from mental illness. SRC holds about 18 1-hour events throughout the year, most of which are held during the school day and involve invited speakers (students, teachers, and outside guests).

The group learns about mental health issues and has a field trip to the capitol each year to learn about advocacy and the legislative process.  Many students attend conferences and other meetings as representatives of SRC.

Silver Ribbon Club – Washburn High School, Minneapolis

The Silver Ribbon Campaign is a student led group focused on reducing stigma and raising awareness around mental illness issues. “We make it ok to talk about not being ok.”

Students  check in with each other and the group’s advisor at meetings but primarily work on planning mental health awareness activities, such as:

  • Guest speakers for students and also evening events for parents
  • Fidgety Fairy Tales performance
  • “Above the Influence” Campaign: Avoiding the pitfalls of peer pressure
  • Text number with free app for Washburn students to ask questions
  • Glass display case with information about depression and anxiety
  • Create of a video Public Service Announcement
  • Volunteered for other organizations that help teens with mental illness

HEART, Wayzata High School, Wayzata,MN

HEART is a student task formed a year ago by a student leader in response to a series of tragedies. Their main focus has been to create a positive school climate and raise mental health awareness, particularly for those students who might otherwise be overlooked or not connected to school activities.

They sponsored a Mental Wellness week, leveraging support from local businesses, the Student Council, National Honor Society and other existing student groups.

Activities included:

  • “Pay It Forward Day” – Students earned wristbands for doing good deeds
  • Professional and student panels and mental health workshops
  • Photo booth – Students held cards that answered the question “How do you do wellness?”

Familiar Faces

We spotted some familiar faces recently!  Catalyst Suzanne Renfroe and her son Brian are featured in a video on their combined journey through Brian’s ASD diagnosis and his experiences with Transition.

On the Problem of Avoiding

ostrich-head-in-sand1

When it comes to mental health issues, lots of people avoid them.  Teachers and school staff don’t want to bring up touchy subjects with parents, so they speak in vague, indirect terms, rather than confront the issue more head on.  Instead of saying, “Allison seems sad,” and stopping there, teachers should keep going. They may need to add, “The fact that Allison cries every day, does not seem to have any friends, and falls asleep in class regularly really concerns me.”  From there, a teacher might need to advance to: “You might want to have your child get an evaluation,” or “Your child may benefit from seeing a therapist or counselor.”  If possible, a teacher could offer a list of therapists or low cost clinics that a parent could call.

Of course, this type of honesty has to be offered in a framework of caring and concern.  Even if the topic is introduced thoughtfully and gently, teachers still may experience major blowback from parents.  After all, navigating a child’s mental health issues is a very emotional experience and carries with it an implicit set of blame for the parents. No parents want to hear that their own kid has a problem.  But they need to.

If teachers don’t say anything or coaches or pastors or principals, then parents can continue to tell themselves that their child’s behavior is somehow normal. Avoidance can last for years, often until a devastating crisis occurs.  Here’s a new approach: let’s focus on avoiding crises instead.

Rather than Armed Guards, How About Trained Mental Health Professionals in Every School?

ImageWhen my teenager had a meltdown at school a year and a half ago, she was called into the counselor’s office to talk through what was going on with her.  This talk and this counselor really helped her that day and in coming weeks as more red flags emerged.  Over the next year, the counselor shepherded my daughter and my family through a mental illness diagnosis, treatment and recovery.

This counselor was not an academic counselor or a school psychologist, whose primary duty was to administer tests.  She was a licensed, trained professional employed by a community based mental health agency who worked from the clinic in my daughter’s school.

Once I learned the gravity of my daughter’s situation, we set up weekly appointments. My insurance company paid for these services, and I didn’t have to drive her to weekly appointments.  I didn’t miss work and she didn’t miss much school, but she got the help she needed. I’m happy to report she is doing much better these days, but some days are still a struggle.

There are lots of kids with mental health issues and most kids go to school.  Why not bring mental health services to kids where they are?  If we want to protect our kids, my money is on school based mental health, because it actually works. It works because more kids get help and they get it earlier in their illness.  It works because counselors can build trusting relationships with students.  It works because counselors can work with teachers to help students who are struggling.  These are things that actually help prevent mental illness from spiraling out of control into tragedy.

These are things that armed guards cannot do.