Tag Archives: adolescents

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:

 

Coffee and Conversation with PCLG

coffee-conversation

We want to hear from you!  Join PCLG Parents next month for coffee, refreshments, and conversation. Learn about the opportunities for advocacy, connections, and training available to parents who choose to become PCLG catalysts.  Bring your questions about interacting with your child’s school, finding providers, or accessing services through the county. We especially want to hear from parents of preschool and grade school children, but all are welcome!

  • Saturday, August 12, 2017
  • 10 – 11:30 am
  • Augsburg Park Library Meeting Room (NOTE: New location!)
  • 7100 Nicollet Ave, RichfieldFree, but please RSVP.  Children are welcome, but please let us know ages and how many to expect!

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.

Am I working with a licensed Mental Health Professional (MHP)?

It’s a simple enough question, but there are many types of therapists and counselors out there, so it’s a good idea to check the credentials of the therapist who is working with your child or family.  Here is a list of most credentials that are used in Minnesota:

  • LMFT – Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
  • LICSW – Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
  • LPCC – Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor
  • LP – Licensed Psychologist
  • MD – Psychiatrist

Don’t be afraid to ask.  It’s your right, and in your child’s best interest.

Normal or Not Normal? Part 2

ImageWhen Parents of School-Aged Kids Should Seek Help

Parenting children through their school-aged years can be exciting and fulfilling, but also frustrating.  You may delight as you watch them grow, but you may not always know how to help them through challenges. Remember that childhood is not always rosy, and our kids can be confronting difficult issues like bullying, problems with schoolwork, and peer pressure.

How our kids are responding to the normal stresses of elementary and middle school years is important to know.  The guide below should help parents to consider what types of behavior are considered normal and when behaviors should be of concern.

NORMAL FOR SCHOOL AGED KIDS

NOT NORMAL FOR SCHOOL AGED KIDS

Sometimes not wanting to go to school
  • Actively and continually resisting going to school;
  • Routinely crying about school or having tremendous anxiety about school.
  • Skipping school
Not excited about schoolwork
  • Declining school performance
  •  Getting very behind in schoolwork
  • Easily distracted or unable to pay attention
Growing awareness of and some anxiety about external peer and school pressures, as well as broader issues such as spirituality and world events.
  • Extreme, obsessive or long-term anxiety that interferes with eating, sleeping, or other daily living activities.
  • Frequent headaches or stomach aches that don’t seem to have a medical cause.
Body changes and awareness of sexuality
  • Sexual acting out that is inappropriate for a child’s age
Some mood swings
  • Having “up” or “down” moods that last for several weeks at a time;
  • Experiencing a dramatic personality change;
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Talking about death or suicide
Testing out behaviors and taking risks
  • Displaying patterns of lying, cheating and/or stealing
  • Aggressive or hurtful behavior, fighting or bullying
  • Recklessness to the point of endangering self or others
  • Substance abuse

Sources: Minnesota Department of Human Services; University of Maryland Medical Center

Link

New Mental Health Website for Youth

New Mental Health Website for Youth “You Are Not Alone”

NAMI Minnesota has just launched this new mental health website for youth.  It’s definitely worth a look.

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.