VIC COLUMN: Fighting Villains, Protecting the Public, Reducing the Stigma of Mental Illness
Kudos to our friends at the Greater Greenville Mental Health Center for tackling the issue of childhood mental health.
A recent open house was a very successful combination of superheroes and brain-health awareness. This description is one of 8 items listed in the most recent SC MHC Newsletter:
Superheroes Visit the Greater Greenville Mental Health Center
Between 5 PM and 7 PM on May 9th, the Greater Greenville Mental Health Center was transformed into a hub of Superhero activity.
In recognition of Children’s Mental Health Awareness Month, five superhero characters from fantasy films, along with public safety officers and other community leaders, came to the Center to emphasize the importance of mental health wellness through positive engagement, support and education. Batman, Superman, Dr. Strange, Captain Marvel, and Wonder Woman created excitement for the children and families as they provided joyful experiences for all.
More than 100 individuals, including children, parents, grandparents, staff and various organizational representatives, attended the community event that successfully assisted in de-stigmatizing mental health challenges. Superhero guests visited with children and their families and helped our visitors recognize the importance of creating positive opportunities for health and happiness. Children and adults enjoyed the many creative art activities, along with Zumba dancing, face and hair painting, and dressing up in superhero costumes.
The superheroes were joined by other Greenville community public safety “heroes” that included: Abby, a sweet and (very popular) therapy dog; Miss Teen Easley, Kristin McJunkin, whose platform is increasing awareness of mental health and depression; Greenville Fire Department firefighters with their large hook and ladder truck – fully extended; emergency medical services personnel with their EMS van open for inspection; the Greenville County Sheriff’s office with their popular bloodhound; and the I.C. Hope Duck from Mental Health America South Carolina. Children and adults enjoyed the opportunities to explore the vehicles and engage with the public safety personnel.
Various community organizations, including Mental Health America, NAMI, Kidventure/THRIVE, Center for Developmental Services, and Carolina Behavioral Health provided educational materials relevant to health and wellness, and generous community donors provided pizza, drinks, and doughnuts, books, stuffed animals and amazing door prizes for attendees.
A great and fun-filled, successful - and “mentally healthy” experience was had by all and our goal of bringing attention to mental health wellness was realized.
Kids love superheroes, of course, so this was a remarkable way to capture their attention and convey this message: If you need someone to talk to, speak up. So many of our young people these days are dying by suicide that it’s obvious, childhood is becoming something far removed from what we older folks envision it to be.
Making it into their 20s and 30s, folks can self-medicate with alcohol and opioids. Once the prescriptions run out, they find it on the streets, often laced with fatality-potential fentanyl.
Pre-teens are savvy enough to raid the parents’ medicine cabinets to find something that makes them “feel better.”
Children don’t have any of that. They see no way out. Suicide instructions are easily accessible on the internet so, obviously, it is a way to end their pain. Even if they have never expressed their pain to anyone.
BE A SUPERHERO. Listen to your children with an open heart. Set aside what you have to do for a time, and really, really listen. If they need help, the answer could be as close as your local mental health clinic.
Summer’s here. Children are out of sight for mental health counselors, coaches, school resource officers and “lunch ladies” - teachers can’t access that daily barometer of how their kids are doing. Some of these young people are going to die this summer -- young lives taken by their own hand. For adults, that’s a choice - a regrettable choice, your live today may not be your life six months from now.
For children who see “no way out,” it should not be a choice. If it ism that is our failing.
Original reporting for this column is by Jayne Crisp, Community Liaison, GGMHC.
(Vic MacDonald is editor of The Clinton Chronicle. He was appointed to the Beckman Center for Mental Health Board in September, 2015 (local number - 864-938-0912). The views expressed here are his and do not necessarily reflect those of The Chronicle. MacDonald can be reached at 833-1900 or firstname.lastname@example.org)