MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week is a week to intentionally focus on mental health in schools.
While students have been away from the school buildings, their classrooms, and their teachers and friends, they’ve been away from those who are most likely to notice changes in their emotions.
“This particular week is one that’s special, it gives us an opportunity really to focus on the children and to highlight some initiatives that we know are now of utmost importance, to encourage children to have an outlet that those now times are about to come back into their regular normality. Now we have to focus on what we can do to empower children to understand that they do have a voice and a voice that is important. And now we know what to listen for, as a result of what we have witnessed them go through in the past year,” said Shaundalyn Elliott Johnson, Prevention and Support Specialist for the Alabama Department of Education, who says this week provides new opportunities for an increased focus on mental health among children.
“We will promote more of youth mental health First Aid training, which is basically a training that provides educators, provides parents and even students themselves with the warning signs that are associated with when a student is in crisis, mentally. In addition to that, we’ll also focus and highlight on what we already have existing in the school setting.
Johnson says the system presently has collaborations with the Alabama Department of Mental Health as it relates to school-based mental health services that are on site. “
So more than ever, even without this throughout the schools, you’re going to find that there’s going to be a much more central focus on employing the services of those who we already have in place. And those individuals will be key to allow the culture of the school to be one where we number one, stop the stigma. There’s a stigma that is attached to mental health and the need for supports,” Johnson added. “But more than ever, this week, our focus is going to hone in on ensuring that students know that we have individuals who are at their fingertips, proverbially right at the school setting. And even if they’re not really in the school setting, they’ll still have the leverage to participate in some of these same initiatives by way of a virtual platform. So our focus this week is to showcase for children, the door is proverbially open to you for whatever needs you may have as it relates to mental health supports.”
More than 100 Alabama school systems have mental health service coordinators on-site to make sure that additional services are brought into schools to support students and their mental health.
The theme for this year’s Children’s Mental Health Awareness week is “Flip the Script on Mental Health”.
“The script pertinent to the stigma associated with the need for mental health supports. We’ve had issues where individuals would be very reticent to speak out on the need to employ services to improve their mental health support. But we are moving forward now with flipping that script, changing it promoting an environment that is one of acceptance, one that is one to help each individual to take autonomy and responsibility for their own mental wellness and to do so without the stigma of shame. And to do so without the stigma of misunderstanding,” Johnson said. “We’ve had issues where many individuals would focus on mental health awareness, but from an adult perspective, we’re flipping the script this year so that we can incorporate the importance of focusing on what children need, even though they don’t always vocalize what they may be experiencing. their emotions are very real.
Johnson says they’re flipping the script from the stigma.
“We’re flipping the script from one dimension to include children in addition to not apart from adults,” Johnson added.