Community dialogue and early intervention are essential
Another busy autumn is upon us. Last month we recognized National Recovery Month with several local observances and awareness events. This month there is much more happening for mental health and early intervention awareness.
In addition to on-going free public education programs for Mental Health First Aid and suicide prevention, Chester County is reigniting a campaigned called Community Conversations about Mental Health. The idea behind these community conversations is straightforward and very simple: get people to talk about the elephant in our room. If our mental health and emotional wellbeing is essential to our overall health, why do we avoid the topic? The goals are simple too: break down misperceptions, promote healthy communities, and work together to find local solutions to mental health needs.
Last month Chester County’s office of Mental Health, along with the Brandywine Health Foundation and the Coatesville Area School District, held a Community Conversation at the Coatesville High School. It had been a while since I’d attended one, and I’d almost forgotten how much I enjoy the experience. Community Conversations about Mental Health are facilitated conversations and based on a model created by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA). At the Coatesville conversation, parents, administrators and community members met in the evening for a light dinner and a conversation about what mental health means to us as individuals and as a community. We talked about our challenges and our opportunities around the topic. The two hours seemed to fly by, and at the end, we hadn’t learned new skills or created any new polices, but everyone agreed it was a powerful, rewarding and humbling exercise. I can’t explain how it happens, but I do encourage folks to look for information about Community Conversations in Chester County. You can look for information about these, and other programs at Chester County’s website, www.chesco.org/mhidd.
This month we are also celebrating Pennsylvania’s Promise for Children Month, a campaign to raise awareness about the importance of early learning. Chester County’s office of Infant and Toddler Early Intervention uses this observance to remind parents and caregivers that the first five years of a child’s life are absolutely essential to brain development and shaping literacy, math
and social skills. By age five, about 90 percent of our brains are developed, so from birth, every experience a child has will impact certain neural circuits in the brain.
Pennsylvania’s Promise for Children has a helpful website for parents and professionals. Information on such topics as brain development and choosing a quality early education program, to handling challenging behaviors and making ends meet, are included in the Early Learning GPS (Guiding Parents Smoothly). Go to www.papromiseforchildren.com and click on the GPS link to find out more.
If you would like more information about Community Conversations about Mental Health, or if you would like to inquire about holding a conversation at your site, contact me at email@example.com.