The COVID -19 pandemic has exacerbated mental health issues especially among children and students. Reports indicate that a growing number of young people under 18 years old are showing signs of isolation, depression, anxiety, and loneliness. The impact of the pandemic in combination with the shortage of behavioral health experts and other daily stressors has created a silent but insipid mental health crisis among our most vulnerable population.
On May 17, comprehensive legislation was introduced at the national level (Mental Health Matters Act (H.R.7780) to help confront this growing mental health problem. It is imperative that our state leaders, educators, health providers, parents and communities join together to address and find solutions to this escalating problem.
One group that is working diligently to enhance mental health and prevent substance misuse among school-aged children is the Southern Providence County (SPC) Regional Prevention Coalition. The Coalition is the union of concerned volunteers dedicating themselves to the betterment of the community and its residents.
The coalition advocates for change through planning, development and implementation of effective prevention strategies by raising awareness of substance use and promoting safety and wellbeing. Our community coalitions consist of the Cranston Substance Abuse Task Force, the Johnston Prevention Coalition, North Providence Prevention Coalition, Scituate Prevention Partnership and the Smithfield Prevention Coalition. These coalitions are comprised of business, health, safety, education, youth and government volunteers. Municipal coordinators from each of these towns organize initiatives in schools and the community to prevent underage substance misuse and promote mental health.
The SPC Prevention Coalition in collaboration with the municipal coalitions is launching a “Mental Health Matters” campaign for all high school students in the SPC region. “Mental Health Kits” will be disseminated to students amidst final exams week. These kits include stress balls, motivational stickers, lanyards that read “it’s okay not to be okay” and coping cards with motivational and positive suggestions on how to deal with feelings of stress, sadness, being overwhelmed, and other feelings that are common to students during this time.
The time to get involved is NOW. Connect with your teens and students. Talk early. Talk often. And listen. The SPC Regional Prevention Coalition welcomes your support, input and encourages you to attend one or all of our coalition meetings. Visit http://spcprevention.org/about-us/ to reach out to SPC’s Regional Director and Advanced Certified Prevention Specialist, Patricia Sweet, or the municipal coordinator in your town.
Editor's Note: Patricia Sweet, BA, serves as ACPS Director of Prevention Programs & SPC Regional Prevention Task Force, Tri-County Community Action Agency.
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