Tuesday, August 20, 2013

How will the ACA impact children's mental health care?

Well... we've already been given some details on how things will improve, but we're about to find out more! The White House has called for a special debriefing on August 21st to outline the specifics of the Affordable Care Act and how it impacts mental health services. The FFCMH, as a collaborating partner on the Consumer, Family, Peer & Recovery Community Coalition, was invited to attend this meeting and bring along 20 members to represent our organization. (SO, this is the part where I'm jumping up and down and about to burst with excitement -- YES, I made the list!) And I am grateful for the opportunity to experience first hand the great changes ahead that will make sure all children and families have access to mental health care.
I've been doing my homework on the details of the ACA, and also spent time this evening with 4 current and 1 previous state directors of FFCMH chapters, talking about all of the great things happening for children and families with mental health needs. I'm excited to do my part in sharing information about the ACA and making sure that it keeps youth and families in the drivers seat when it comes to services that are right for each individual -- not 'cookie cutter' therapy.
Thanks to another great children's mental health advocate, Brittany Smith of Build Social,as she pointed me in the direction of a great informational video that outlines the ACA so that we can all understand the details better. Be sure to take a look.  http://kff.org/health-reform/video/health-reform-hits-main-street/

A photo from dinner this evening with one of my new advocate friends, Kathy Holsopple, Vermont State FFCMH Director  

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

It's ECCO Time!

The Excellence in Community Communications and Outreach Recognition Program released the finalists today for the Gold, Silver, and Bronze awards in 7 categories for System of Care social marketing activities and materials. Project Connect is on that list once again this year! We qualified in the Media Outreach category with our commercial series entitled "I'm the Missing Piece" of Children's Mental Health that aired in 2012 on WSIL TV3 in Southern Illinois. On July 18th, during a special webinar hosted by SAMHSA, we will be finding out which award (gold, silver, or bronze) that we will be bringing home to Eldorado!
The goal of this particular campaign was to show that many people are involved when we are talking about diagnosis and treatment, and that it takes all of us to make the puzzle of mental health services come together -- focusing on three very important aspects first -- family members, teachers, and family practitioners. As the leader of the social marketing team, "ECCO" time is the highlight of my year! I am so excited that we as a team produced a tool that is considered one of the best in the nation. Our marketing team prides itself on being able to share information about transforming how mental health services are delivered to youth and families in our rural part of the country (3 counties to be exact) and we are so happy that we can share our success with the rest of the United States.
But the awards don't stop at the gold, silver, and bronze -- there is also an overall winner chosen among the 21 finalists. The ultimate in awards is "The People's Choice" social marketing award that is chosen by none other than YOU! That's where we could really use your help. Would you take the time to vote for us? But first, you might want to take a look at the great work we have done to get us to the finals. Check out our Youtube channel that has all three of our commercials posted.
"I'm the Missing Piece of Children's Mental Health" -- Parent Focus
"I'm the Missing Piece of Children's Mental Health" -- Teacher Focus
"I'm the Missing Piece of Children's Mental Health" -- Family Practitioner Focus

You can check out the other ECCO finalists by visiting the SAMHSA website
and also see instructions there about voting for your favorite finalist! We are extremely proud to make the finalist list this year, and I'm already making plans for our application for next year :)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

CMH continues to be addressed at The White House

Yesterday, President Obama and Vice President Biden hosted a National Conference on Mental Health as part of efforts to increase the conversation about mental health awareness. The Federation's Executive Director, Sandra Spencer, has been a huge part of providing information that the President and Vice President are using to bring attention to the need for reform. Sandra reports excitement from the Presidents remarks at the Conference because what he said meant that he had been listening to the information that the FFCMH had been supplying to the appointed task force.
Sandra states that she was pleased to hear the President talk about parents who are shamed and, therefore, don't always seek help for their children. He also said "we whisper about mental health" but speak openly about any other health related condition. President Obama even made a comment that let us know he even knew about our NCMHAW theme, stating that "we need to bring mental health out of the shadows."
I get very energized about the work we are doing to share information about children's mental health when I hear great things like this. The Federation's advocacy work is an important aspect of mental health in general because of the designated 'family' representation. And it all comes down to that fact that we, Federation members, get it. We know how it feels, and we know what families go through. It's nice to have someone by your side that can understand where you have been and where you might be going. As the work continues to bring more attention to children's mental health and reducing stigma, I hope that there are many more opportunities to impress information within our culture from our leadership down to our families.
The information and some text included in this post is a small recap of the information included in the FFCMH's newsletter Reclaiming Children. To read more about this event, visit the following site to see more:

Friday, May 31, 2013

The FFCMH Mission is Accomplished by Sharing Personal Experiences

Why do I advocate for the National Federation of Families? Because the commitment of each and every staff member, board member, and even the leadership is completely and absolutely personal. All of these people are there because of the experiences they had as they have fought for their children's mental health needs and the rights of all other children to have their mental health needs met also.

Recently, the Executive Director, Sandra Spencer, and Marie Niahros, a Family Resource Specialist, were invited by the Child Mind Institute to participate in an event for their Speak Up for Kids Campaign in May. Child Mind created an on-line interactive event that featured Sandra and Marie as they told about the Federation and how each of them have worked to navigate the mental health system in order to find the best care for their children. The video is fantastic and it is an example of that real life experience motivating the real work behind the Federation mission. Click the following link to view the event titled: "Bringing Mental Illness out of the Shadows - A Parent's Perspective."

Watching the video clip renews my energy for the job that we have to do in sharing the message of children's mental health awareness. We can't say it loud enough or strong enough... Mental illness does not develop from bad parenting. Parents are not guilty of their child's mental health challenges and should not be ashamed when their child needs treatment. Shame only causes avoidance and denial -- which will never allow children to get the support they need. When I see teens suffering through substance abuse, depression, and suicidal thoughts, I see a medical disorder -- not a family problem, and not a parenting problem. Disorders don't go away if you just try harder not to have them, a diagnosis is not a disability, and treatment does not mean personal weakness.

I'm proud, not ashamed, to say that I belong to this group and use my personal experience to encourage other families. As we each have the courage to tell our story, we empower someone somewhere to do the same. That's how we end the cycle of stigma and mental health disparities. It's a mission of the heart, and obviously the mind too.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Taking care of my own mental health too...

With all of the activities going on during National Children's Mental Health Awareness Week, I always have a tendency to wear myself a little thin emotionally. It is such an important time of the year and there is such a limited amount of time to get everything in that's possible to manage. I knew that I had  reached my limit at around 3pm on Friday when I saw a friend/co-worker leaving the event for the day with her running clothes on and a huge smile on her face. At that moment I would have given anything to trade her places, as I still had another event  that evening before I could call it a week well done. Seeing her and thinking of running made me long inside to be doing the same! I realized that above all else, that is my ultimate stress reliever and I couldn't wait for the next opportunity I would have to run my little heart out!

So I started thinking about what makes running such a great stress reliever and mental health "balancer" for me. Believe me, it's not because I can win any races, cause I'm quite slow -- but I think it's the all around experience. I have a certain route that I run (and also bike) that is near our house. We are out in the country, so it's pretty quiet for the most part and a lot of my route is completely shaded by trees. There is one area that I love where I pass by a large wheat field. Since it's usually in the evening, the sun is setting and the golden cast is just beautiful. Amusingly, it always reminds me of the part in "Forrest Gump" when he is running across the country! And that's the experience that I long for -- it's soothing and calming and my mind aches for it when things are hectic.

It's important for me to remember that I have to take care of my own mental health in order to be able to take care of my family's mental health needs too. Not only do I exercise, but I take my prescribed medications everyday, and pay close attention to how different foods affect me emotionally too. An excess of sugars can make me anxious, overeating causes lethargy, too little food makes me irritable and moody. Our daily diets are not just fuel for our bodies, but our minds also. That awareness is something I try to pass on to our children too -- helping them pay attention to how they feel when they have had too much of something or not enough of others, including sleep.

Why do I advocate for children's mental health instead of adult mental health? Simply because raising a new generation to understand the importance of mental health and the medical nature of it changes all of our futures. If I can convince adults along the way, then it's a two for one bargain! Now, I'm heading out for another stroll through the country to work on me.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Canada Celebrates Awareness Week Too!

The Institute of Families for Child & Youth Mental Health is helping Canada to celebrate Children's Mental Health this week also! This organization led by Keli Anderson, their Executive Director, is helping to share information to help families navigate the mental health system while receiving support as they go. At the Federation of Families here in the US, we are proud to have the Institute of Families as a sister organization and also extremely happy they adopted the green ribbon as their symbol! We love how they have made it their own by shaping it into a heart!
The Institute of Families for Child & Youth Mental Health (IF) is a central coordinating organization that acts as the catalyst to connect families with mental health care providers, policy makers, educators, researchers, service providers and businesses across Canada. Tomorrow they will officially release their FamilySmart Initiative -- a trademark that will identify and endorse practices, research, policies, programs and services, which relate to child and youth mental health, and are meaningful and make a difference to families. 
I just can't express what a wonderful undertaking this is for children and families! I wish them all of the success possible and I look forward to seeing great things from them for years to come. Be sure to visit the new FamilySmart website when it goes live tomorrow!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A Flash from the Past that Continues to be a Part of My CMH Advocacy

Several years ago, I created a healthy relationship curriculum for high school students that was called SMART Education (Saving Marriages And Relationships Together). In the therapy setting, I found that I was teaching the same concepts time and time again regarding relationship skills. It was apparent that there was a lack of relationship education that could be solved quite easily, and so I set out to change that! With the help of a Federal Grant in our area called Safe Schools/Healthy Students, I was able to teach the curriculum to 7 different school districts for several years. However, when funding disappears, dishearteningly so does the opportunity for education. The curriculum is still available from the Illinois Baptist Children's Home and can be implemented very effectively by anyone ready to make a difference for our youth.
So for several years, I have drifted away from relationship education to a more broad sense of mental health with my children's mental health advocacy. But today, I got a chance to unite the two of them and it was a powerful combination in helping our youth with mental health and relationship issues. I had the opportunity to "teach" during the Eldorado Friend of MHINDS meeting today (during the students' lunch time) and I was able to share some of those concepts that stirred the creation of the curriculum many years ago.
Ever heard of a genogram? That was the focus of our discussion today. It's a tool that helps you create a visual representation of the family patterns and dynamics that have been present for years. It's one thing to kind of know in your mind what has developed in family relationships over the years, but it's a completely different thing when you put it down on paper. Seeing the diagram of your history provides insight as to the underlying ideas about relationships that your family has passed down. If you are aware of the good and bad, you are much better equipped to continue making better choices for yourself. But the key to using a genogram is that you must understand that you are still in control no matter what. Just because a negative pattern exists it doesn't mean destiny for you -- unless you try to ignore it completely! High school students love this activity because it really is ALL about THEM. It's exciting to see them embrace the concept and use it for their continual mental health growth!
Seeing the two of these advocacy areas come together as one was an uplifting experience for me today! It prompts me to begin thinking again about how to get this curriculum out there to our youth who need this information. Let me know if you have any thoughts about accomplishing this... We all have to work together to make changes!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Hands Around the Courthouse

Thanks to CASA of Saline County there was an opportunity to stand up and show community support for child abuse prevention this month. For the last few years, they have organized and event called Hands Around the Courthouse, bringing together those who continue to be advocates for children. In 2010 & 2011, I was proud to be a part of the Saline County CASA Board and I love to continue supporting their great work. Pictured below is the newspaper photo of those present and an action photo of Judge Todd Lambert who was the featured speaker at the event. His words were in appreciation of the commitment that so many have to the well-being of our community youth. Judge Lambert is very active in the Saline County area and even serves on the Project Connect Coordinating Council. I feel lucky to be able to work closely with such great people in our community, including Judge Lambert, the employees of Egyptian Health Department, Saline County CASA, and all of the other community organizations that are represented in the photo.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Never Underestimate Your Influence

Social media provides the opportunity for people to express themselves and observe the expressions of others. Because of this, we should never underestimate the power of even a single word! Sharing a photo becomes powerful, seeing a "like" or a "follow" causes interest and curiousity, and a sentence or two opens windows to the soul -- all for everyone else to observe.
Even though I strive to focus my social media messages on gathering support for children's mental health, the month of April brings another opportunity to focus on the health and wellness of children. April is Prevent Child Abuse Month, and so supporters of the cause showcase the color blue as much as possible.
Paint your nails blue day!
The Coalition to Prevent Child Abuse in Southeastern Illinois created opportunities and activities for everyone this April that were extremely easy to do. One of those was "Paint Your Nails Blue" Day. Not a color you'll see on my fingers and toes, it definitely presents a conversation starter. If even one person notices and makes a comment, then there's a chance to share the message. Post a photo with a caption on Facebook, and now you double or triple the exposure and possible influence.

I don't have a popularity status that moves mountains, but even if I move one pebble at a time, I'm helping to make a difference. If you like being in photos (it's obvious I do!), or you just like posting on Facebook or Twitter, how about making a few posts about Child Abuse Prevention before the month of April is gone? Never, ever, ever underestimate who you might reach!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Continuing Bullying Prevention Training...

This past week, I had the privilege of training yet another school in our area to use the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program. Gallatin County Jr. High School in Southeastern Illinois has made the commitment to put an end to bullying in their school! They had a great group of committed staff that made the training days a pleasure and a guarantee for a successful implementation of the program.
Because it has been a little over a year since I last trained a school, the amazing qualities of this program had been put in memory storage, away from my everyday recall. Sharing the information once again, ignited that  original passion for how great this program really is.
I think the biggest key to its success is that it empowers teachers to feel like they really can intervene when a bullying situation arises. That may not sound like such a big thing, but it really helps to eliminate the emotional guessing game about what happened and who's responsible. There's a clear determination about what the teacher saw and how to act accordingly. It even includes a script, so that all teachers and staff are intervening in exactly the same way! And that's only the tip of the iceberg as far as this program is concerned. There is so much more!
As a past middle school teacher and high school counselor, I know how packed and overwhelming a teacher's schedule can be. It almost seems impossible to add one more "program" to your daily duties. But, the highly organized, thoroughly supported, and scripted nature of the content make this program feel like it's not a "program" at all. It becomes an overall school climate change that makes everyone feel safer without feeling a burden of another thing to do.
Bullying prevention is everyone's responsibility. It's in everything we do, every minute of the day. Doing things that are at other's expense, or that makes someone feel bad about themselves, is what we need to work towards eliminating from our daily communications -- a very hard thing to do when even children's television shows have examples of teasing/making fun that are passed off as being acceptable.
If you'd like to know more about the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, you can visit www.violencepreventionworks.org  or you can email me (greenribbonadvocate@gmail.com) for specific Olweus publications that can help introduce the program to your school district. I look forward to hearing from you!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Developing Partnerships for Children's Mental Health

Shopper's News Ad
Part of sharing the children's mental health message is establishing partnerships with well known community organizations or individuals that will lend their community influence to your particular marketing goal. When you find that unique partnership that benefits both parties, the result is quite an exciting opportunity to showcase what each party brings to the community at large.
As we head into preparation for National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day in May, it makes me extremely proud to see the partnerships we have established and continue to nurture between community governments and the children's mental health awareness movement. Last year, Project Connect showcased a collection of 18 mayor proclamations, which announced the observance of Awareness Day. It was quite a marketing accomplishment when we created a newspaper ad that showed photos of 18 Mayors, establishing that even from government point of view, children's mental health is one issue we all need to be giving our attention. With the two ads we developed, distribution in our communities exceeded the population of our three counties by almost 5,000 copies. We chose two publications that are delivered free of charge to all homes and businesses in our three county area.
We are working our hardest to make these mayor proclamations happen again in 2013. This year we are hoping to get all 19 mayors, which will be every community in White, Gallatin, and Saline Counties in Illinois.
SAMHSA helps to make proclamations an easier task by providing a template that can be used at the state or local level. We are even adapting it for schools and other community organizations this year. If you would like to use the SAMHSA template for proclamations in your area, you can find it at http://www.samhsa.gov/children/pnb_proclamation.asp If you'd like more information on how we accomplished our proclamations, you can contact me and I will be glad to share with you our process! greenribbonadvocate@gmail.com

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Surviving and Thriving after Traumatic Events

It has been called the disaster without an anniversary date -- the tornado that hit Harrisburg, Illinois on February 29, 2012. Tomorrow, it's one year later, but is it? Traumatic reactions always occur sporadically after a devastating event like this disaster, but the question of not being able to fully recognize the event because of something like leap year provides a way for us to look at the idea of trauma and the way events like this can affect our children.
I believe the hardest thing in dealing with trauma is not knowing when symptoms will be triggered and when they won't. Because it's hard to even identify it within ourselves, it's twice as hard to see it in our children. The unpredictable responses and not knowing what to do for a child usually leaves adults making the choice to just avoid talking about it. Totally understandable though -- cause we don't want to end up making things worse! We care, but we're scared to mess things up at the same time.
Harrisburg is my hometown and I live only 20 miles from there now. I have family and friends there still and the news of the tornado immediately brought anxiety, fear, and sorrow. The same was true for my children.
Thanks to my colleagues at Egyptian Health Department, I have access to resources that I can utilize and share with others. Dr. Matt Buckman, a psychologist I am thankful to know, immediately began collecting information to share with parents and providers that would help children deal with the after effects of the tornado. Dr. Buckman presented his info to three schools and some parent groups. The info included things like:
Normal Childhood Responses & Resiliency
How to Help All Children Cope
The Signs of Traumatic Stress
Managing Survivor Guilt
Compassion Fatigue
Personal Stress and Post Trauma Growth
If you are interested in the information from Dr. Buckman, please contact me at greenribbonadvocate@gmail.com or Dr. Buckman at mattbuckman@egyptian.org
Trauma reactions can come and go, just like an anniversary date -- or sometimes it may seem like it never existed at all. But, no matter what, we have a responsibility to help our children sort through and learn great coping skills. Not only that, but helping others is always personally beneficial to our own mental health too! Let's get to work :)

Monday, February 18, 2013

2013 Stigma, Discrimination & Disparities Conference

The Family & Youth Roundtable, serving San Diego's children and families with mental health challenges, provides an excellent opportunity every year to consult with colleagues and learn from leaders in the field regarding stigma, discrimination and disparities in services. I was fortunate to be able to attend this conference last week and bring the very best of information back to my community.

There were many highlights but I'd like to touch on a few that were at the top of my list. The conference opened with a keynote address from Dr. Arun Gandhi, who spoke of continuing his grandfather's teachings of non-violence. He spoke of living for a period of time with his grandfather and of how his family practiced disciplining children in a non-violent, non-intimidating way. He continues his teachings through an organization called Gandhi Worldwide Education Institute and I consider it a true honor to have had the opportunity to meet him.
 I also had the opportunity to hear about Dr. Ross Greene's work in the field of collaborative problem solving. His non-profit organization is called Lives in the Balance and it's described best on his website saying:
 Lives in the Balance is the non-profit organization founded by child psychologist Dr. Ross Greene, author of The Explosive Child and Lost at School, and originator of the Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS) approach. His model is highly effective with kids often described as challenging, angry, defiant, and oppositional. This website contains a ton of resources -- streaming video, an extensive Listening Library, and lots more -- to help you learn about and implement Dr. Greene's research-based model and provide you with the strategies and support you need to help these kids in ways that are compassionate and effective.
I was very impressed by Dr. Greene's work and the fact that he is offering such great resources for free. This website provides parents another option for helping their children with mental health challenges to have more success in the classroom. It's definitely worth taking a look at!

One of my most favorite presenters was also there too. Eddie Peterson presented a session about the stigma related to the sexual abuse of males. I always gain great insight when I hear him speaking. Not only is he my friend, but a wonderful colleague that helps keep me motivated in doing the work that is so close to my heart. If you are needing a dynamic speaker for your next event that can talk about stigma reduction and many other mental health topics, Eddie is the one to call! You can become familiar with all of the great things Eddie is involved in by visiting his website at www.youdontknowmylife.org
This conference was a great experience and a regeneration of my passion to fight stigma and continue to educate our communities about how common mental health challenges are in all of our lives. I am grateful that I got to share this conference with Eddie and my other great friend and colleague, April. I think that together, we are an unstoppable team in the world of eliminating stigma, discrimination, and disparities for children with mental health challenges.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Friend of MHINDS (Mental Health Interest Needs Dedicated Students)

As our core team at Project Connect have looked for ways to engage more youth in education and awareness of mental health, we always hit one stumbling block -- how do we get them to come to the events? An age old question that requires an age old answer... meet them where they are. I envisioned an opportunity that would be convenient to high school students, offer them something they might be in need of, and create a situation that would open up a much needed discussion about mental health issues. The answer was Friend of MHINDS.

Just like anything we attempt to do at Project Connect, it's a collaborative effort in which myself and my colleagues are moving full speed ahead to implement. We plan to go into our area high schools once a month at lunch time, bringing lunch and mental health education to those students who are interested. The only requirement is to let us know ahead of time that you are coming (so we have enough food) and be committed to learning about issues like stigma, bullying prevention, suicide prevention, and drug-abuse prevention.

Our first meeting of sorts was a "meet and greet" information table at Eldorado High School today at lunch time. Our team, comprised of a diverse group of individuals were all there in order to show students that as adults with different backgrounds, ages, and ethnicities, we are all committed to growing a generation that accepts mental health ideas and embraces the differences of others. In a small rural school, where everyone knows everyone's business whether you like it or not, we were amazed at the interest that these students showed! Over 75 students signed up for our first lunch meeting on February 28th. Wow! I am so very excited to meet with these students as we will be talking about stigma and the upcoming National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day in May.

We hope to establish a Friend of MHINDS group in each high school in our three county service area of White, Gallatin, and Saline. I believe the possibilities for outreach are endless with this project and I can even see the possibility of sustaining the program in the future by involving other community organizations for support with providing lunches and education opportunities. I guess my biggest hope besides the success of this within our schools, is the possibility of making it a replicable activity that system of care groups can do all over the United States. If you are interested in learning more about Friend of MHINDS, you can contact me at greenribbonadvocate@gmail.com or visit the Eldorado Friend of MHINDS Facebook page. I'll be back with more information after the first meeting on February 28th!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Supporting the Emotional Health of You and Your Family After a Heart Attack/Stroke Happens

Go Red for Women by the American Heart Association does an excellent job promoting the signs and symptoms of an impending heart attack or stroke in women, and every year I enjoy helping to share that information. Go Red Day this year will be on February 1st and I always look forward to choosing that perfect red clothing item to sport all day long!

This year though, I have a particular issue about women's heart health that has continued to get my attention, and I'd like to take some time to shed some light on it. At the Mrs. International Pageant in July 2012, a very brave woman spoke at our orientation meeting, telling us not only about her heart attack experience, but also how it affected her and her family emotionally after she was in recovery. She described the difficult time that they all had dealing with the traumatic event of her heart attack because the fear of losing a mom and a wife just doesn't go away with recovery -- it's something that sticks with a family and increases the stress a family has about normal every day activities.

Of course being a family mental health advocate, this really made an impact on me, and I realized that not enough emphasis has been put on helping a family deal with the emotions of recovery. Families go through trauma when a heart attack or stroke strikes a loved female in the family. Trauma does not go away just because the person's medical condition gets better -- the fear and anxiety stick with you and can be a debilitating cloud hovering over everything. But not only are we talking about mental recovery from trauma, but also from the number of medicines that were pumped into the body in order to save a life. Withdrawal from anesthetics or pain medication can bring a host of emotional troubles including crying spells/depression, angry outbursts, and social withdrawal -- not to mention the number of ongoing prescriptions that are required for heart recovery with the side effects that they weild.

I do know that SAMHSA has created some initiatives that address this very concern, so it gives me hope that this is a growing issue of concern in the field of mental health. If you are looking for specific information about mental recovery after a heart attack or stroke, I really like the hearthealthywomen.org site. Even though I do my part in trying to share information to prevent heart attack and stroke in women, I believe now that it is equally as important to provide support to those in recovery -- not just celebrating recovery, but understanding the emotional depth of it too.

Have a great day of celebration on Friday and wear your red proudly for prevention AND recovery in women's heart health.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Planning for Awareness Activities -- NCMHAD 2013

At the PACE (Parents And Caregivers Empowered) meeting on Thursday, January 24th, I had the priviledge of facilitating a discussion with almost 100 parents and youth about what we as family members want to do to make our communities aware of the importance of children's mental health. SAMHSA has declared May 9th as the designated National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day for 2013, and we want to be ready to make an impact!
We had lots of great ideas and volunteers to specifically step-up and take leadership roles for things like coordinating poster contests, coloring contests, mayor proclamations, food donations for a "block party" event, and even more ways to involve as many community members as possible. At the end of the planning session there was a sense of excitement and a feeling of unity because we all have a common goal of educating others and creating awareness of the real facts about mental health and our families.

Following that discussion, my very good friend, April Scales, introduced a new campaign idea to us parents that she feels very passionate about and that we would like to see develop in our communities. The campaign is called "OUCH!" and is a concept from Leslie Aguilar's "Ouch! That Stereotype Hurts!" The Ouch Campaign follows the simple principle of standing up for others that may not be able to stand up for themselves when they are ridiculed, demeaned, or discriminated against. When you hear somebody say something that is offensive, and you're pretty sure that someone in the room probably felt the sting of those words -- all you have to do is say "Ouch." Sometimes, people don't know that they are hurting others with their words and just need some simple re-directing of their word choices. Or, if someone is intentionally being hurtful, then the person who is the target needs a friend to stand up and say 'I have your back, and what that person said is not ok.' "Ouch" becomes a simple way to change stigmatized messages and lift others up that may have frequently been the victim of judgement or ridicule.

With the rampant spread of awareness about bullying, it has become everyone's responsibility to not let classmates, coworkers, neighbors, or even family members target others and make them feel badly about themselves. I love the idea of the "Ouch" Campaign and I will be doing everything that I can to help my friend April establish the message in our communities. It applies so strongly to mental health and so many other things too. If you have additional ideas about sharing the message of "Ouch!"-- we would love to hear it! Just leave a comment or email me at greenribbonadvocate@gmail.com or April at ascales@egyptian.org

Friday, January 18, 2013

What's the future of children's mental health?

As the dabate continues about gun control after the Newtown tragedy, mental health is interwoven in all the discussions... As it should be! But of course, everyone has a different idea of what that mental health discussion should be, and who knows what actual interventions will be implemented and followed through to longterm sustainability. Knowing that President Obama would be addressing gun control and mental health, my colleagues and I have been anticipating just how this is all going to take place and how receptive that our nation will be -- which is a conversation we were already having about our own small community we continue to serve.

I became very excited about the possibilities for change in our nation when Sandra Spencer, Executive Director of the National Federation of Families, informed us that she had been invited to join the conversation at the White House regarding the recommendations that Vice President Biden would be providing President Obama about gun control initiatives. Upon leaving the meeting, she prepared a video to inform Federation members about her role in the meeting and what she hoped would be a huge step in a positive direction to help America understand the position of families and caregivers already addressing mental health challenges -- and in effect why the feelings they have are the same as caregivers that are not seeking treatment for fear of social ridicule and judgment. See the video below to hear her address to Federation members.

As I listened to Sandra's words, I was inspired by how well she captured the depth of what America needs to know in order to understand the importance of children's mental health diagnosis and treatment along with unstigmatized support from a family's community at large. When I talked to Sandra individually to applaud her job well done and to express how moving I felt her address to the Federation members was, she shared additional information about being asked back to the White House to continue the conversation after the President's Press Conference on Wednesday, January 16th. She expressed her excitement as to being able to give more information for prompting action to celebrate the upcoming children's mental health awareness day and promoting the identification of the green ribbon in support!
One of the most infuriating and sad things about our world today is that it takes a tragedy like Sandy Hook in order to call attention to something that should have been addressed a long time ago anyway! But as I look at the details surrounding this event, a close friend of mine brought to my attention that the school colors of Sandy Hook just happened to be green and white. A call of rememberance was made for everyone to wear green in honor of those lost on the Monday following the shooting. For me, I believe this adds a whole new level of possible response for the green ribbon in support of children's mental health. I feel that the tragedy at Newtown has given all dedicated green ribbon advocates an additional push of motivation to share the message of awareness this May.
In the official statement released from the White House after the Presiden't Press Conference on Wednesday morning (see the document by clicking here) President Obama says, "We are going to need to work on making access to mental health care as easy as access to a gun." I definitely second that!  What remains to be seen however, is whether or not America will follow suit and agree about the protection of our children and that it includes both gun control and mental health awareness and services for all.
 I'm hoping for the best possible future for children's mental health and that public awareness and acceptance changes dramatically over the next year. I'll say it over and over again in the months to come...I'm a green ribbon advocate for many, many reasons. How about you?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

2012 Illinois Snow Angel Pageant

I am so thankful to once again have been part of the Illinois Snow Angel Pageant! In it's third year now, there are more and more young ladies participating that want an opportunity to be a platform voice for the Illinois Baptist Children's Home Ministry of Angel's Cove Maternity Center. Contestants enter this pageant knowing that winning means work, so their hearts have to be focused on the cause. That's what makes the Illinois Snow Angel Pageant so great and when I get the invitation to emcee, my schedule is automatically cleared.

When the winners of this pageant start the journey of their reign, they come to understand the important service that Angel's Cove provides. As their website explains, "Angels' Cove provides residential care for minors and those over 18. Whether a young mother chooses to parent or to form an adoption plan for her child, Angels' Cove staff are there to assist with counseling, networking with community resources, prenatal care, parenting classes and other services. Birth mothers who choose adoption not only have input into the openness of the adoption but also choose the adoptive couple for their child.
Birth mothers forming an adoption plan can also be served within their own homes throughout Illinois." 

The group of Snow Angel titleholders continues to grow as a few new titles were added in addition to the previous ones. Along with the Miss, Teen, and Littlest Snow Angels, the Junior and Pre-teen categories are boasting some fabulous new winners!
Miss - Jessica Dillow
Teen - Alaina Katherine Pinnon
Preteen - Lauren Campbell
Junior Miss - Tori Dollins
Littlest - Jenna DeWitt 
See the winners pictured here with their most excellent pageant directors, Lindsay Zeschke & Jenna Harner (L to R).
You can also see more pictures from the event on the Illinois Snow Angel Pageant Facebook Page or by following this link to my photo album.

The continued success of this pageant is amazing. This year the pageant raised a total of $3061.08 which will help to support the Angel's Cove Ministry beyond it's usual donations! I can't wait to see what the next year brings. God has great plans for this entire group!

I also want to thank the outgoing Snow Angel Queens from 2011 -- Samantha Steely, Jenna Doerr, and Addison Nagel. They and their families donated their time to also help me advocate for children's mental health and they were lovely and passionate Green Queens! You all are always welcome in the Green Queen family because we have plenty of work to do to educate our communities. You three are very special young ladies to me. I am blessed to have the opportunity to know you all!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Teaming Up to Battle Stigma

In 2010, Angie Hampton, CEO of Egyptian Health Department, offered me the opportunity of a lifetime -- the chance to battle the stigma of mental health as an employee of Project Connect at EHD. However, she was really the one who was taking a chance in offering a Social Marketing Coordinator position to someone who had no formal education in marketing. Luckily for me, she had been observing my faithful work to educate the community and my publicity during 2009 when I was Mrs. Illinois International. Angie, who is passionate in her work to a truly admirable level, recognized that I had passion as well, and intended to have me on a team that would make a difference in our communities -- I am so grateful she believed in me.

2009 - Eddie & Me
When I think back to how many skills I developed during 2009, and how many people I met who changed my life forever, I can't help but to appreciate what pageantry gave me, how it improves my life continually, and to this day, helps me change other lives as well. And here's where the story intertwines with another person that means a great deal to me. In 2009 when I was at the Mrs. International Pageant, I met a man by the name of Eddie Peterson who was the director of the California International Pageant. I had looked forward to meeting him because we had something in common -- we were both psychotherapists, not something common to the pageant population. Eddie shared with the contestants that year something he was developing called "You Don't Know My Life," and it was then that I knew I had a forever ally in educating others about mental health and battling the stigma that surrounded it.

When I made the trip back to the Mrs. International Pageant this past July as Mrs. Midwest 2012, I looked forward the most to seeing Eddie again and feeling that spirit of empowerment that comes so naturally to him. As I believe that God is orchestrating a plan we are most times unaware of, I listened to him tell more about his foundation and how "You Don't Know My Life" is continuing to grow -- and a feeling began to overwhelm me about Eddie's ability to reach out to audiences of all types. I knew then that I wanted him to come to Southeastern Illinois to make an impact with his story, his therapy skills, and just the magic that he seems to leave behind everywhere that he goes.

My coworkers & friends from PC
When I returned home after the pageant and talked with the core Project Connect Team, they were completely on board with bringing Eddie here to help us battle the stigma that keeps families from seeking treatment, and empower them with the message of not being judged by others because they don't walk in your shoes everyday. We decided to create 3 different workshops for people of our community while he was here -- one for child & family serving professionals, one for parents, and one for youth.

Continuing to be great friends & colleagues!
I can't express how happy I was to have Eddie here in Illinois helping Project Connect with our mission to share information about mental health and increase the number of families receiving support. Altogether, 160 people participated in our three events with absolutely glowing reviews about Eddie and his message. The most common thing I was asked was "When is he coming back again?" His visit here once again made me appreciate the melding of my job, mission, passion, and friendships with that of my pageantry experience and I love being able to expose others to the positives that can be found there.

If you are in need of a great motivational speaker that will empower you and help you to keep an open mind about life, Eddie Peterson should be the only person to consider! If motivational speaking doesn't fit your need, don't tune out just yet, because Eddie is such a talented therapist and presenter, I'm sure that he has the right fit for your organization's needs. All you need is to just talk with him once and you'll feel the power he has been blessed with.

In sum, I am thankful for the people who are by my side in the journey of mental health education. Angie, Eddie, the Project Connect Team, and most importantly my family, who also pitched in to make the events with Eddie the best they could be. So give a big cheer with me...Go Team Anti-Stigma!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Today is World Mental Health Day

I blog for World Mental Health DayWorld Mental Health Day... now there's a thought, huh? In other words, mental health challenges are a global issue -- imagine that! And, why not, when statistics prove that 1 in 5 people have a diagnosable mental illness at some point in their lifetime. This year, the World Mental Health Day Project was an education campaign created by the World Federation for Mental Health. The Project is entitled "Depression: A Global Crisis" and you can read the full pdf by clicking here. I think that the story behind the development of this day is important too and you can read about it's inception 20 years ago by checking out the WFMH Facebook page.

Of course I am always in support of specific diagnosis awareness, but as most of you know, I have a preference for promoting the elimination of stigma that surrounds mental health diagnosis and treatment. Why? Because I still run into people everyday that believe mental health disorders to be hooey mumbo jumbo, because they believe anyone can decide to pull themselves up and not be mentally ill anymore! WHAT!?!?! And that's all because of a lack of mental health education along with a culture that shuns those who are afflicted.

How do I know it's not mumbo jumbo? Just today, as I was floating down the river of Twitter information from my favorite mental health organizations (check out who I follow) I ran across two articles that drive this point home. One was titled "Gene tied to Obesity, Depression, ADHD" and the other was called "New de novo Genetic Mutations in Schizophrenia Identified." (click titles to read the articles) Just the titles without the articles scream genetic markers, not just 'pull yourself up by your bootstraps' behaviors. Yet, how much proof does our society need?

Even though I could ramble incessantly about this point, I will refrain and just finish with these thoughts:  Change starts with you. Acceptance starts with you. You influence others.

"Be the change you want to see in the world." -- Mahatma Gandhi

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Now offering On-line counseling services!

Contact me through Medovin.com, a secure and confidential connection online, for available counseling sessions on Wednesdays and Fridays.
MEDOVIN.COM Video Profile of Kristin Melton

Monday, September 10, 2012

Early Childhood Educators & Their Role with CMH

Having the opportunity to speak with the Southern Illinois Association for the Education of Young Children opened a great deal of communication as to what role an early childhood educator fills when it comes to children's mental health. A lot of people would automatically say that the role could simply be defined as the first gateway toward a child or family receiving mental health services -- but I think it is much more than that.

Not only is it possibly the first place to gain a referral, but it also could be the first place to become exposed to the "feeling" of what a mental health referral is. To clarify, I'm talking about whether or not the presentation of the referral prompts the family to feel positively about the intervention, or shamed and stigma laden about having to seek mental health services. Just for arguments sake, which way would you want your child's preschool teacher to approach you about a mental health referral? A or B?

A. Your child is having some difficulty fitting in with the other children. His behaviors don't allow him the ability to play for any length of time without causing the other children to walk away. He has a temper/anger problem that we believe needs to be evaluated by a mental health professional. Would you like to talk with the social worker that we have on staff?
B. As your child's preschool teacher, it's my job to help identify possible barriers to your child's academic and social success. Mental health care is significantly important when it comes to school and I think it's important that we consider consulting with the social worker/counselor to make sure that we are providing him every opportunity to succeed. Would you like for me to assist you in meeting with them?

The difference is clear -- one is a labeling and accusing statement without support (your child is bad and what are you doing as a parent?) and the other is a supportive, non-blaming collaboration to making sure that all children have an equal chance to succeed. Not only would it be received better by a caregiver, but choice B is also more comfortable for the pre-school teacher.

Officers of the SIAEYC...great new Green Ribbon Advocates!
In order to reduce the stigma of mental health and make it an acceptable part of growth and development, we have to start at a very young age. The introduction of services to caregivers is a very important part of this process. The SIAEYC members were so supportive of this idea and their excitement regarding their role in this process was an inspiration for me. No one wants to feel labeled or judged and remembering to treat others as we would want to be treated is the key to acceptance. Thank you SIAEYC for being a great group of caring providers. You're an admirable group!
I was also fortunate to have a co-presenter at the event, Brittany Smith from the Children's Mental Health Network! She gave the SIAEYC great information about the Network and then told them about the White Board campaign. It's always fantastic when I get to be around Brittany and feel her energy about sharing mental health advocacy. We both appreciate the interest in the White Board Campaign and those who got their photo taken for the campaign wall. Check out those photos here
 If you are in the early childhood field and would like to learn more about mental health services for children ages birth to 5, please feel free to contact me about information and resources.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Every question has a story...

The Children's Mental Health Network Whiteboard Campaign is a great way to promote awareness and advocacy for children's mental health. The CMH Network is trying to collect photos of 100,000 people asking a question about a children's mental health issue. I love the idea and it's social marketing at it's best! Everywhere I go I'm asking people to participate as you can see by my posts on my Mrs. Midwest International blog.
The Network and I believe that every question has a story behind it and I would like to share mine.

The Story Behind Kristin's Quesion from Children's Mental Health Network on Vimeo.

If you would like to share a question, we would love to have it! Visit the Children's Mental Health Network website Whiteboard Campaign page and find all the information you need in order to submit your question. We will be waiting to hear from you!

Friday, July 13, 2012


Friday update – 7-13-12
Greetings faithful readers. It has been a busy week for the Network, and no, we ain't afraid of no Triskaidekaphobia. From what we have been told, the only way to cure this psychiatric condition is to read "Friday Update" and rock out to The Cure - Cuz it's "Friday I'm in love." So sit back, turn the speaker volume up to 8, take in the aroma of your morning blend and enjoy the offerings posted to the website this week.

Dewey beats Truman! Or in this case, Obamacare loses
The New Yorker has posted an amusing collection of magazine covers that were produced before the Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act. Details here.
There is a storm coming and it is called sequestration
Last year, Congress enacted the Budget Control Act (BCA) as part of a compromise over raising the debt ceiling. If the bi-partisan committee appointed to carry out the BCA and develop a deficit reduction plan is unable to come to agreement, sequestration kicks in January 2013. Under sequestration, an amount of money equal to the difference between the cap set in the Budget Resolution and the amount actually appropriated is "sequestered" by the Treasury and not handed over to the agencies to which it was originally appropriated by Congress. While much attention has been paid to potential cuts in defense due to sequestration, the cuts in domestic programs would be equally devastating.
What does this mean for the Network? Stay strong and say to your congressional representatives over and over again - "Enough with the posturing already. Spend the next six months doing the job you gave yourself under the Budget Control Act (BCA) - pass a balanced deficit reduction that avoids the sequester." Funding for children's mental health has already taken a hit. We can't afford another one. Network faithful –still got your speakers dialed up to 8? Good. Learn more about sequestration in Morning Zen and get fired up with a little Gnarls Barkley
Whiteboard Campaign for Children's Mental Health!
We are in the midst of shaping the future of children's mental health service delivery, both in the United States and abroad. Debates about the best way to run a country, run a health care system, and support children and families are raging and it can be hard to figure out where children's mental health issues should fit. At the Network we believe that the issue of children's mental health belongs everywhere and that there are opportunities present every day for us to take a stand for children's mental health. Take a stand now by sharing the question you think needs to be asked to improve children's mental health. Your questions will help us collectively imagine and advocate for an improved children's mental health delivery system across the globe. Ask your question now.
Pack your sunscreen – Orlando is calling
Only two more weeks before the Training Institutes! Don't miss the premier conference on children's mental health. There's still time. Plus, there are still a few spots open for the intensive Pre-Institutes. Check it out here.
Good luck Kristin Melton!
Kristin is one of the Networks strongest ambassadors, spreading the word about children's mental health awareness and reducing stigma in communities across the nation and abroad. Kristin competes next week for the title of Mrs. International 2012. Good luck Kristin, the Network will be cheering for you!
$1.0 billion headed to Oregon for health care reform The federal government has formally approved reforms to the Oregon Health Plan as well as $1.9 billion to support them. The Children's Mental Health Network is watching the developments in Oregon with a keen eye on how families who have children with serious emotional challenges will fare under the transformation initiative. Details here.
So what really would happen if states opt out of Medicaid expansion? Who loses? The Washington Post has produced a telling graphic that plainly shows that the "losers" would be the poorest of the American population. If governors opt their states out of the health law's Medicaid expansion — as many are now threatening to do — it's the poorest Americans who would find themselves getting the rawest deal. Read more here.
Important Suicide Prevention webinar coming up
Don't miss the latest webinar being offered by Community Solutions at the University of South Florida with Katherine J. Lazear and Stephen Roggenbaum. The presenters are authors of the Youth Suicide Prevention School-Based Guide. Details here.
HHS plans ACA implementation forums for this summer
The Network was pleased to see that HHS will be hosting Affordable Care Act implementation forums across the country to provide an opportunity for states and stakeholders to learn more about the next steps in implementing the health care law. Details here.
Oh, so that's what a health insurance exchange is…
Hot off the press from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation - great information on how health insurance exchanges can improve quality and aid in system reform. Details here.

What we are reading this weekend:
And be sure not to miss…
Let us know what you need from the Network!
We love feedback so let us know how we can improve the website to better meet your needs. Contact us here.
As always, thank you for your continued support of the Children's Mental Health Network,

Scott Bryant-Comstock
President & CEO

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Georgetown Training Institutes for Improving Children's Mental Health Care

The Georgetown Training Institutes which focus on improving children's mental health care will be held July 25 - 29, 2012 in Orlando, Florida. I'll be there and I can't wait to hear one of the featured speakers scheduled for the Youth Track! And it just goes to show that you never know who you are going to meet that has an uplifiting story about their journey with children's mental health -- this time it's James Durbin. Does that name ring a bell for you?
See the information below posted by my partner organization, the Children's Mental Health Network:

Hey, you know that the Training Institutes has an amazing specialized track for youth leaders, ages 13-22, who are ready to be empowered with the information and skills to change their community, state, and nation, right? Oh man, if you don't, you need to check it out. This is a great opportunity to expand the knowledge and skills of the next generation of children's mental health leaders. And goodness knows, we are going to need them! Share the information and share the love... Oh, and did we mention that James Durbin of American Idol fame will be a featured speaker? Ah man, you know you are coming to the Institutes now!
James Durbin lit the American Idol stage on fire with his powerful performances, and now the Season 10 alum is setting the music world aflame with his debut music video and album “Memories of a Beautiful Disaster.” As a youth, James was diagnosed with both Tourette’s and Aspurger’s Syndromes. Affected by these conditions and by his father’s death of a drug overdose, his talent has helped him overcome the obstacles that he faces day by day. Overall, Memories of Beautiful Disaster is an audio document of Durbin's life as he's lived it. "I am looking back on my life. Parts were disastrous, and there are some things I wished never happened. But I can look back and appreciate things that I once considered disasters as things of beauty. They make me who I am today. I'd never go back and change anything." With that attitude, and the fact that he set the table for his career thanks to American Idol, Durbin has all the necessary tools to fulfill his mission of bring back the rock! He is now ready to step on his own stage and is ready for his fans to stand with him. Even though his talent has led him to where he is now, his challenges have also played a part, and he has become a role model for American youth with challenges of any kind.                                     (from the Children's Mental Health Network Website)

Friday, June 1, 2012

Children's Mental Health Network Spokesperson Announcement

In the Children's Mental Health Network Friday Update Email today, it was announced that I will be promoting the Network as their Spokesperson! I am very excited to have this opportunity to reach more and more people about the importance of diagnosis, treatment, and support for children with mental health challenges. If you would like to receive the Friday Update Email each week, you can sign up on their website at http://www.cmhnetwork.org/sign-up and I highly recommend it, as they cover a wealth of topics for everyone in regards to mental health. As stated in their announcement below, you can also find a page on their website to request me as a featured speaker at your upcoming event http://www.cmhnetwork.org/speaking-engagements. The text below is only a snippit of the entire Friday Update, so be sure to visit the website!

As to Scott Bryant-Comstock, President & CEO of CMH Network, and Brittany Smith, Director of Community Management for CMH Network, I can't thank you both enough for all of the support and friendship you have provided me. The picture to the right is of Brittany and me at the Be a Green Queen Event, when she came all the way from Portland, Oregon, to Norris City, Illinois, to provide support for the event from the Network! I definitely can tell you it is a huge honor to be able to help promote this incredible organization with the most incredible people at my side!


Friday update – 6-1-12

Greetings faithful readers. Here is what's new on the Children's Mental Health Network website. We are knee deep in planning for the future this week and are excited about the possibilities ahead. In the words of Alan Kay – "The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” So grab a skinny latte, settle in and imagine the possibilities with the entries below.

Kristin Melton goes for the title!This July, Kristin Melton will compete for the title of Mrs. International 2012 in Chicago. She will promote the Network as our Spokesperson with the goal of creating interest in children's mental health awareness, sharing information about our work, and promoting our mission. Kristin is eager to engage in advocacy events everywhere, and is available as a featured speaker. Would you like to have Kristin Melton as a guest speaker at your next event? Let us know! Good luck Kristin and thanks for being an ambassador for children's mental health.