Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week recognized


First Posted: 5/5/2014

National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week is celebrated May 4 through May 10, and this year marks the 25th anniversary of the event.

The Surry division of Community Collaborative, which serves as the body that supports child and family teams and the development of their local system of care, is raising awareness of this event by distributing green ribbons that are displayed outside participating agencies and businesses.

Community Collaborative is a group of individuals addressing significant needs of children, adolescents, adults, and families who are dealing with mental health and substance abuse issues. The group is made up of Partners Behavioral Health Management, Surry County Department of Social Services, juvenile justice staff, and other behavioral health provider agencies and stakeholders that work together with families and family support organization.

Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week is an annual event, organized by the National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health, that “encourages everyone, everywhere to promote wellness, positive mental health, and social development for all children and youth, according to the website for the event, located at www.ffcmh.org/awarenessweek.

At the Kids Fest held at Riverside Park on May 3, the collaborative held a balloon release at 1 p.m. to kick-off Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week, with hundreds of green balloons released and green ribbon stickers distributed to those in attendance.

Surry County Commissioners signed a Children’s Mental Health Week Awareness Proclamation on April 21, to recognize the celebration throughout Surry County.

Christie Horton, agency coordinator with the Surry Children’s Center, said observances would continue with multiple balloon releases this week, with each school in the county choosing a certain day and time to conduct a balloon release.

If anyone is interested in displaying a green ribbon, distributing green ribbon stickers, or participating in a balloon release, contact Candice Moore at cmoore@partnersbhm.org. Also contact Moore for more information about the Surry County division of the Community Collaborative.

Youth group organized

Community Collaborative also organized a Youth Leadership Group for ages 15 through 22, with plans to enroll as a local chapter of Youth M.O.V.E. North Carolina, according to Horton.

M.O.V.E. stands for “Motivating Others through Voices of Experience.”

This year’s group started meeting on April 5 and the first group was successfully organized last year, Horton shared, with several participants graduating from the program.

Horton described the leadership group as a “youth-driven group” for young people involved in various systems including mental health, juvenile justice, education, and/or social services/child welfare.

“The teens and young adults who participate learn how to advocate for themselves and for other youth in the community,” Horton shared.

Participants learn life skills such as how to speak in public, how to handle positive relationships, conflict resolution, improving decision-making, personal empowerment, job skills, and raising awareness and reducing stigma of involvement in various systems such as mental health and juvenile justice.

Learning how to tell their story in a public setting, in a way that makes them feel comfortable, is an important aspect of the group, Horton said.

The group meets for eight weeks, then holds a graduation celebration. Last year, one of the youth who graduated went on to design a webinar for National Youth Move, Horton proudly announced.

The group began in April with a group ropes course, as a way to get to know each other. Horton said they don’t really trust each other at first, but learn trust through working together to navigate the ropes course. Through the eight weeks, they develop relationships, then they return to the ropes course as a final outing and Horton said they always see a “huge difference” in the interaction on the ropes course.

“We want to create our own Youth Move NC chapter here in Surry County, so we are holding monthly youth advocacy meetings, and this group is a part of that. Those who are involved display leadership skills they can pass on to others. Schools may recommend participants, social workers, court counselors, but one thing they all have in common is that they are in a spot where they can move on to serve in a leadership position in the community. It is important for young people to be able to advocate for themselves, and this group prepares them for that.”

Youth M.O.V.E. is a nationally-recognized, youth-driven group organized by North Carolina Families United and devoted to improving services and systems that support positive growth and development, uniting the voices of individuals who have had experiences in various systems including mental health, juvenile justice, education, and child welfare.

Reach Jessica Johnson at 719-1933 and on Twitter @MountAiryJess.

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