Minding the Minds of Our Youth
Since 2014, Lee Health has been leading the way in educating the community about how to improve physical and mental well-being through its Healthy Living lecture series and the Lee Health website calendar of events.
While the four-year-old lecture series was becoming a huge success, drawing as many as 1,000 attendees to hear lectures from experts such as Dr. T. Colin Campbell, author of Forks Over Knives, and Rick Esselstyn, author of Plant Strong: Discover the World’s Healthiest Diet, there was a continuous behind-the-scenes emphasis on mental and behavioral health for nearly 10 years.
Recently, ongoing planning efforts materialized in a partnership with Lee Health, Lee County Schools and the Ardmore, Pennsylvania, Minding Your Mind (MYM) speaker program that offers dynamic, young adults with presentations to students, faculty and parents that focus on firsthand stories about their struggles with mood disorders, thoughts of suicide, eating disorders, addictive behavior, self-harm and bullying. Inspiring sessions provide students with a better understanding of the signs and symptoms of mental disorders and an emphasis on the fact that they are treatable and help is available.
Rob Spicker, communications coordinator for Lee County Schools, was present on March 12 at the first of several assemblies that included school faculty and counselors. “I heard Drew Bergman’s powerful talk about his sad early teenage years plagued with depression, two suicide attempts and inspiring turning point. Although the MYM program was in the planning stages for the nine previous months, the timing was coincidental in its proximity to the shootings at Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida. Everyone was listening respectfully to Drew talk about the MYM program, yet when he began talking about his first suicide attempt at age 13, the weight of the reality hit everyone. When he finished, six students immediately went to the front of the auditorium to talk with him and the school counselors,” recalls Spicker.
“Bergman is just out of college and not much older than the students. He related to them on different level than a principal or counselor. He encouraged us to recognize signs and symptoms in students and gave us some simple tools that are preventive—get good sleep, eat well, develop good health habits and find someone to talk with and trust,” advises Spicker.
“The local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Kids Minds Matter and Valerie’s House were among the resource tables at the sessions so that students and parents knew where they could turn to locally,” says Christin Collins, system director of health and wellness for Lee Health. NAMI is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.
Kids’ Minds Matter raises awareness and funds for the estimated 46,000 children in Southwest Florida that are currently living with mental health and behavioral disorders, but without adequate support services.
Valerie’s House is a special place for children and families in Southwest Florida to connect with one another and learn the tools to heal after they have experienced the death of a loved one.
One in five Americans has a mental illness, but many are reluctant to seek help or might not know where to turn for care. Unlike physical conditions, symptoms of mental health and substance abuse problems can be difficult to detect. For friends and family members, it can be hard to know when and how to step in. As a result, those in need of mental health services often do not get them until it is too late.
The second-leading cause of death of individuals between 14 and 23 years old is suicide. Because the age of onset of most psychiatric disorders is typically during adolescence, it is essential that the proper information be brought to the attention of secondary school educators, counselors, students and their parents. These are reasons why Lee Health is increasing mental health literacy with Youth Mental Health First Aid training.
Youth Mental Health First Aid gives people the tools to identify when an adolescent might be struggling with a mental health or substance abuse problem, and to connect them with appropriate support and resources when necessary. This is a valuable course for anyone working or volunteering with youths between the ages of 10 and 18, including teachers, coaches, medical staff, church youth advisors, sports club staff and camp counselors.
“On June 4, the mental health theme continues with guest speaker Dr. Darren Morton, author and expert in lifestyle medicine who was integrally involved in the development of the Complete Health Improvement Program (CHIP), a lifestyle program that has helped Lee Health deliver proven results and priceless benefits in the area of chronic diseases,” advises Collins. The event, Helping Happiness—How to Lift Your Mood and Your Life, gives the author of three books the opportunity to share research on scientifically proven ways for improving happiness.
Minding Your Mind, 610-642-3879
National Alliance on Mental Illness. Lee/Hendry Counties, 239-337-9024. Charlotte County 941-787-2763.
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