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 or visit the Eldorado Friend of MHINDS Facebook page. I'll be back with more information after the first meeting on February 28th!

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