Community Connections, Spring 2002
County CMHP Team Gets Creative!
stated goal of the original Ulster CMHP project was to educate parents
of adolescents so they can distinguish between the symptoms of normal
teenage behavior, emotional problems, and issues surrounding teen use
of alcohol and other substances. This public education campaign included
a free conference that was open to the public. We also created a series
of paid articles, including interviews with a parent and a teen with emotional
and substance abuse issues, that ran in the local newspaper. And finally,
we organized an hour-long radio show featuring a substance abuse specialist,
nurse and mental health youth worker who discussed these important issues.
Community reaction to these efforts was positive and included letters
to the editor of the paper praising the educational series and a 45% increase
in calls from parents asking for more information on children's disorders.
The 2001 goal was to create a better working relationship between the
CMHP team and the Children's Unit of the Ulster County Department of Mental
Health Services. We also planned to continue the parent education effort
by researching the needs of parents and attempting to meet them.
Throughout the year we compiled an anecdotal file of requests from parents
for help in understanding the mental health system and for techniques
to better cope with their children's needs. We attended meetings with
the leaders of the Children's Unit and expressed the main concerns of
parents. These concerns include the long waiting list for services. Unfortunately,
for children who are troubled but not harmful to themselves, this wait
could be weeks and even months. The UCMHD explained that situation is
due to a lack of child psychiatrists in our area. The staff did express
the need for psycho-educational workshops for parents of young children
who are already receiving services or who are on the waiting list.
As a result, two trainings were designed specifically for family members.
The first is called Kidology, and offers families basic information about
children's emotional disorders verses children's normal development. Participants
also explore the complexities of the mental health system and are offered
a variety of coping, communication and parenting skills.
The second training is called Building Family Skills and provides parents
with the Linehan model of learning and practicing skills. This educational
support group helps natural and foster parents tolerate distress, better
manage emotional responses to a child's behavior and to establish more
harmonious family relationships.
We planned to have these groups designed and up and running in 2002. Parents
whose children are on the waiting list for services will be referred to
these groups in an effort to give them emotional support and practical
advice on how to better cope with the behavior of their children. While
this will not lesson the wait for services, we hope parents will have
the sense that the system, though overburdened, does care about them and
The Kidology group began in 2002 is presently running and is filled to
capacity. Although we have one grandparent and one uncle attending, the
other 12 participants are couples. We also have two infants who come every
week, but we don't count them because they are asleep most of the time.
Besides newspaper advertisments, mailings to child care centers, agencies,
etc. and fliers, team member Diane Mueller who attends the SPOA (Single
Point of Entry) meetings will make parents and staff of other agencies
aware of these trainings during their weekly meetings.
2002 team goal is to combat the stigma young people have against the mental
illnesses in general and against teens and children who are experiencing
emotional problems. In addition, we hope to educate teachers about the
symptoms of mental illness so they can distinguish between symptoms and
poor classroom behavior. We hope to accomplish these goals by establishing
a presence in at least one high school over the course of the coming year.
Team members plan on participating in a health fair that all students
are encouraged to attend and to organize a screening for eating disorders
during may. Our goal will be to reach at least 100 students and give them
educational material on the mental illnesses, including eating disorders.
Community education and stigma busting is an ongoing project. Wish us
luck as we continue to make a difference in Ulster County.
Martha Steuding, Team Leader