Tag Archives: Children’s mental health

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.

How Do Other A-Typical Families Survive the Holidays?

holiday imageTips for Surviving the Holidays for Non-Typical Families

Holidays can be insidious for our families.  School breaks and cold weather keep our kids inside and boredom can become an issue. Kids like ours often don’t have lots of friends they can visit with or activities that can divert them.  Parents can get overwhelmed with the needs of their kids along with all the expectations, events, financial stresses, and additional chores that the holidays can bring.

Remember, it is defminitely OK to say “No”.  Don’t overschedule yourself or your children. It’s ok to turn down invitations to certain parties or events and do something less stressful like watching a movie at home or playing a board game. It’s really ok for kids to spend some time in a quiet space away from all the relatives and chatter.  Remember, relatives are often very supportive of any approach that will minimize having their holidays disrupted by tantrums and outbursts!

While you’re freeing yourself of too many engagements, keep in mind that you don’t have to be a Slave to Tradition. Maybe kids of other people’s families enjoy getting their picture taken on the lap of a stranger dressed like Santa, but not mine. Many of our kids can only keep it together in public for a little while, so make sure you are not overtaxing them or asking something of them that is just too overwhelming or distressing.

Lower Expectations: Don’t expect your holiday season or your children to be perfect.  I don’t know about you and yours, but my kids don’t smile or say all the right things on demand. For kids with a mental health issue or developmental disability, social niceties just don’t happen spontaneously.  For my son with autism, being around a lot of people at the holidays was very stressful. He did not enjoy opening gifts for a number of years.  Even now, he sometimes disappoints a relative by not showing the type of response to a gift that might be typical.  There could be hurt feelings .  On top of this, some relatives might make negative comments or judgments about the type of parents we were.  This is why it’s extremely important to develop a THICK SKIN.  You need to be able let some of these comments or observations just roll off your back.  They don’t live in your shoes and have no idea what works or doesn’t work with your kids.  You know best what your kids need to feel loved and supported.

Ultimately, the best way to survive the holidays is to take care of yourself and your family.  The rest will fall into place.

The Power of Story

Can your story change the world?  Change minds? Move others to action? Or do you find your audience looking bored and surreptitiously checking their phones?

If we want to do our part in raising awareness and reducing the stigma regarding mental illness in children, we need to be effective storytellers.  And if we want to advocate for our children , we need be able to communicate effectively with the professionals who work with them. If you just need to practice your “elevator speech,” or if you want to learn more about parent advocacy, join us for:

Parent Advocacy Workshop – “Telling Your Story So Others Will Listen”

  • DATE:             September 13, 2014   
  • TIME:              9:00 am – 12:00 pm
  • LOCATION:     Oak Grove Middle School
  • Educational Services Building, Door C
  • 1300 West 106th Street, Kim KangBloomington, MN

Longtime disability advocate and legislative expert Kim Kang will be presenting. 

  • The power of story
  • How to tell your personal story
  • Effective communication
  • Meeting strategies
  • Organizing for change

Hosted by the Parent Catalyst Leadership Group (PCLG) of the Hennepin County Children’s Mental Health Collaborative, the Autism Society of Minnesota (AUSM), and Bloomington Public SchoolsThis event is free, but please register through PCLG at hcpclg@yahoo.com or online through  AUSM at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/telling-your-story-so-others-will-listen-tickets-12296726841

How to Handle a Mental Health Crisis

When Should I Go to the ER with My Child?

When confronted with a child’s mental health crisis, some parents may feel the best thing to do is to take their child to the ER.  What they don’t know is that the ER is not always the best answer.  For one thing, there is only one psychiatric ER in Hennepin County for children (Fairview Riverside), and even if you take your child there, you may wait over 8 hours and your child still may not be admitted at the end of that wait.  If you don’t know what to do, call Child Crisis at 612-348-2233 (www.childcrisisresponsemn.org).  They can help guide you.  If you know your child is emotionally unstable, but can be safe while you wait for responders, Child Crisis can beImage a good first step.

 

Video

Youth Advisory Council PSA

We saw some familiar faces in this MACMH video and just had to share it. Congratulations to Brian and Talia for all their excellent work on the MACMH Youth Advisory Council.

Brian and Talia share their thoughts in this Youth M.O.V.E. Advisory Council Legacy of Change video from the Minnesota Association for Children’s Mental Health (MACMH)

 

Thoughts of a 10 Year Old Girl – “What I Would Change”

One of our families shared with us the writing of a 10 year old girl, whose older sister has bipolar disorder.  We were so moved by this story that we thought we’d share it with you. Image

The first day when my sister went to the hospital, I felt bad for her and I was scared what was going to happen.  And then I started feeling left out.  Sometimes people would give me presents to make me feel better, but it didn’t really help, because they don’t realize that I don’t need presents, I want their attention.

I feel like I don’t get a chance to “stick out” in my life.  Because everyone is busy with my sister’s problems and no one cares about what I have been through.

I’ve been through some horrible scenes like when my sister is screaming at my parents and running away, calling people swear words. My sister puts me down a lot: she calls me names and makes fun of me. When she does this, I feel sad and it makes me feel like she doesn’t care about me.  She’s always focused on what she’s been through but she never realizes what I’ve been through.

Whenever there is a severe meltdown, it scares me a lot.

I wish that I would have a sister that would play with me and not be too busy for me, and that would be nice to me.  I feel lost because I always wanted to have a friend in the house but I do have my two cats.

Living with a sister with a mental illness is hard because other people don’t go through what I go through and I have to get used to it.  It’s hard to live with because sometimes you just can’t take it anymore.  Because you have just had enough and you want all the yelling and loudness to stop. It feels like living with a bully in the house and it feels like they don’t care about you and they only think about themselves and what they have been through and not what me or my parents are going through.

Sometimes at stores when she has a fit, it is really embarrassing and I try to run away.

One day I hope that all the siblings will have a day or a chance to stick up for themselves and be able to get more attention and have a lot of time to have fun with their brother or sister.

If I could change something I would change that my sister would pay more attention to me and let me have more attention than her sometimes.

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.

When “Best Practices” Aren’t Good Enough

Recently, my son’s special education teacher assured me that she employs researched “best practices” for his social skills class as well as his transition planning.  When I began to question how effective each of these elements actually are, she reiterated the phrase “best practices,” to shut me down.

What I wanted to say was this: How are these classes and plans actually helping him move forward in gaining the skills he needs to navigate his adult life successfully? How much research actually backs up these “best practices?”  The answer is “Not much.”  

In fact, the ways we are preparing students who have IEPs and/or mental health issues for life as an adult are falling short.  The IES recently conducted a study (not available today because of the government shutdown) that suggests that little is known about the effectiveness of various transition and life skills programs.  As Disability Scoop put it, 

Overall, however, the researchers indicated that a lack of meaningful studies meant they could not make broad assessments about what types of programs are best equipped to help students with disabilities make successful transitions to work, independent living or further training or education after high school.

We know that people with mental health issues and disabilities are less likely to succeed than their peers in post-secondary education and employment environments, so whatever we’re doing right now isn’t working.  So, please, don’t tell me it’s “Best Practices.”  Maybe call it “Best Guess Practices.”  And maybe, just maybe, professionals could be more open to new ideas and the suggestions of parents about better ways to prepare our kids for the world.

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What Parents Wish For

ImageWe’ve been listening to stories from parents about the process of discovering and treating their child’s mental illness.  It’s inspiring to hear and see how so many parents are able to progress from feeling lost and overwhelmed to finding services and solutions for their kids, but the journey is never easy.  When we asked what could have made that process better, here are some things we heard:

Single Point of Entry – Once parents know they need to get some help, they have no idea where to turn.  Many report having made multiple phone calls with many dead ends. They are also surprised by how many applications and assessments they have to complete before their child can start getting help.  Parents say they wish there were one phone number to call and also some sort of guide to help them understand eligibility and other rules.

School Based Mental Health – Symptoms of mental illness often show up in the school setting where our kids spend a lot of their day.  Having a licensed, trained clinician on site at a school can make a big difference in the diagnosis and ongoing treatment of kids.  Parents don’t have to take time off work or take their kids out of school in order to drive to a therapy session.  Kids whose parents don’t have cars have much better access to services.  Moreover, these “in-house” clinicians can play a vital role in educating teachers and staff about techniques that work for each individual.

Hospital Services – When their child is in crisis, parents wish they could find appropriate emergency help that is close to home.  Due to the scarcity of hospital beds for mental health emergencies, children and youth can be sent to facilities that are hours away from home. Sometimes, young children can be sent to teen wards or teens to adult wards.  Moreover, there are often no facilities for families to stay nearby.

Stigma and Judgment – Parents often wish that they had learned more and acted sooner to get help for their child.  They wish that others had spoken out to encourage them to seek help, and not tried to “make them feel better” by minimizing their child’s symptoms. When they did seek help, parents wish that professionals would not immediately assume that they are bad parents or they are at fault. They wish to be listened to respectfully.