Promoting Girls’ and Boys’ Mental Health

May 3, 2010 at 7:43 pm 2 comments

Did you know that 13% of children ages 8 – 15 in the U.S. have a diagnosable mental health problem?  See: http://tiny.cc/p8877

Thursday May 6th is Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day.

http://www.samhsa.gov/children/index.aspx

We cannot separate mental health from overall well being, and we do not recommend separating girls or boys with mental health diagnoses from the circle or council programs serving all youth. Girls Circle and The Council for Boys and Young Men are like extended families for youth.  These models recognize that good health results in part from safe and caring social relationships which are at the heart of development for all children and adolescents.

Earlier last year, we sent an inquiry out to our database, asking facilitators about girls with mental health needs and how they are being served in various Girls Circle programs.  We received a resounding response: all girls are welcome into the groups, and there is no specific difference in how girls are treated with mental health diagnoses than girls without or not diagnosed.  The obvious exception was girls being served within mental health treatment settings, for whom Girls Circle was an extension of core programs.  In addition, facilitators shared our views of the primary purpose of Girls Circle – to offer connection and support for all girls.  Here is one such as reply:

“My circles are open to all girls in the age group of the circle being offered.  I think all of the girls are dealing with the need to maintain a healthy mental state.  All are seeking acceptance and inclusion.”

I will never forget the comment one girl, Jessica, made on a video about Girls Circle many years ago.  She had been a member of Giovanna’s original Young Women In Spirit girls circle. Jessica had been suffering depression, suicidality, family problems during her adolescence.  She spoke to the camera and said, “I see a therapist, a psychiatrist, a family counselor…but of all the things that I’ve done, I think it has been the kindness, love and caring from the people in this circle that has truly kept me going and helped me heal.”

So keep up the good work, offering safety and empowerment, connection and acceptance for the youth in your circles and councils.

The National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) offers several brief audio and video recordings regarding the most common mental health issues children and youth experience, including: attention deficit disorder, anxiety, depression, suicidality, and autism.

http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/child-and-adolescent-mental-health/index.shtml

Massachusetts General has an online resource with dozens of school based intervention strategies for children with various mental health needs. These strategies may also be useful during circle program participation when used appropriately.  If you are serving youth with any of these common mental health concerns, please discuss the strategies with a student, his or her family members, teacher, or school psyschologist when developing support plans: http://www2.massgeneral.org/schoolpsychiatry/classroom_interventions.asp

For example, one set of interventions relates to students with PTSD. http://www2.massgeneral.org/schoolpsychiatry/inter_post-traumatic_hypervigilance.asp These strategies acknowledge that a student’s hypervigilance, checking out, spacing out may be a PTSD symptom due to a trigger, and provide multiple ways to create safety and calmness for the child or adolescent.

On Thursday, in honor of the girls and boys growing up with mental health diagnoses – those that have been identified and those that may never be identified, we invite you to talk with your group members about the prevalence of mental health needs for youth, their family members and friends, and let them know it is okay to ask questions, ask for help, and know that many resources are available to support their well being.

One such resource is an online site where youth can view the stories of kids who have experienced mental health problems like bipolar disorder, suicidality, asperger’s syndrome, and so on, with good ideas that make a difference: http://us.reachout.com/video.php

Challenge your group to come up with a phrase that counters the stigma of mental health and instead, offers hope, care, and connection.  Thank you for being there!

~Beth

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Mental Disorders 101  |  May 3, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    Promoting Girls' and Boys' Mental Health « Girls Circle Blog…

    I found your entry interesting do I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…

    Reply
    • 2. Beth  |  May 4, 2010 at 3:30 am

      Thank you for adding this blog to your site! There are some worthwhile resources so I hope it may be useful to someone. 🙂

      Reply

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