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Healthy Minds, Healthy Community

Mental Health Corner by Caroline Gendelman

“Without a sense of caring, there can be no sense of community” is Anthony D’Angelo’s belief. As a young adult he says he spent his college days seeking an education, not a degree. They were spent learning about the world through student activities, student government and walking trails. In other words, he learned in his community. He has made it his life’s work to guide young adults to create a life worth living. What a mantra this is.

Families build a community and the community wraps around the family. Children do well when their families are working well. Families do well when they are within supportive communities.

What can each of us do to build a better community, a caring community? First, recognize that we all have some obligation to each other. Open your heart and mind to notice when someone is in need. Feeling isolated and alone can have a devastating impact. Loneliness can bring on and worsen depression and other psychological issues. Visualize fractures in the structure of the community. Our children watch us and depend on us to keep their world strong.

According to a recent report ( from ChildMind, of the 74.5 million children in the United States, an estimated 17.1 million have or have had a psychiatric disorder.

“In spite of the magnitude of the problem, lack of awareness and entrenched stigma keep the majority of these young people from getting help. Children and adolescents with psychiatric illness are at risk for academic failure, substance abuse, and a clash with the juvenile justice system — all of which come at a tremendous cost to them, their families, and the community.”

There is that essential word “community”. As a community we need to understand and be more compassionate about mental health issues. Depressed individuals often recall moments of acute distress. When no one reached out and simply asked, “Are you all right?” the distress only worsened. If you sense this in someone, don’t walk away. Let your child see you care. Sometimes a kind word and smile can make a difference.

Talk to your child about bullying. Make certain he understands not to hide it from you if he is the victim. Help him understand the cruelty of it and importance of standing up for someone in his community who is being bullied. He can be the difference. For your home and community, take a Mental Health First Aid Course. It is offered through your local Family Service Agency or search Mental Health First Aid. This teaches you exactly what a first aid course teaches you about a physical injury. It helps you understand when someone is in trouble and what best to do until professional help is in place.

Most of all, realize that mental health issues can be helped tremendously with proper intervention and support. Don’t be ashamed and don’t be afraid to offer support. Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about, be kind. Never miss an opportunity to build your community with – and for – your family.

Read with your child: Is There Really a Human Race? By Jamie Lee Curtis

The Crayon Box That Talked by Shane Derolf
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