At MHANYS, we have twenty six affiliates across the State. Despite the
difference in size and structure, one of the pieces that binds our members
together is the mission driven nature of our work through education,
advocacy and training.

A great example of this kind of effort is on display at the MHA in
Fulton/Montgomery Counties. Listed below is an article about Renee Carr of
that MHA who speaks to schools, libraries and other venues across the
region to talk about mental health. She is also trained in both Adult and
Youth Mental Health First Aid. Also, on a personal note, for those of us
who know and respect Renee, she is a wonderful advocate with boundless
energy and a great passion for educating everyone in the community about
mental health.

Listed below is an article in the Leader Herald highlighting her work and
that of the MHA in Fulton/Montgomery Counties

If you would like information about the MHAs or recent activity in mental
health in New York State, follow us on twitter @MHAacrossNYS

The image counselor: From stress to suicide, Carr teaching life-changing
lessons

By Kerry Minor
The Leader Herald Local News

Oct 31, 201

When Renee Carr of the Mental Health Association of Fulton and Montgomery
counties walked into Kristy Lynch’s health class at Johnstown High School
last Tuesday, she had a goal of helping students understand outside
influences on their standard of beauty.

Carr said it’s quite satisfying to help students examine how the mass media
and beauty industry’s marketing strategies can negatively affect one’s body
image and self-esteem in an effort to sell more products.

“It’s kind of a body image/consumerism/ healthy decision-making lesson all
wrapped into one,” she said.

Another day might find her at a local elementary school teaching
first-graders about the facts of the brain.

Carr is the association’s mental health community educator, teaching
courses for both children and adults.

In her job, she covers a wide range of topics with students including:
stress and anxiety management; depression; suicide awareness and
prevention; self-care/wellness and pretty much any topic related to mental
health.

Included in the presentations is information on recognizing symptoms of a
possible disorder, as well as skill-based education regarding coping
skills, emotional literacy, social and character building skills, and other
topics related to mental and emotional well-being, like poverty and getting
a good night’s sleep.

“The ages of my audiences range from 3 years to adults. I go to schools,
libraries, Fulton-Montgomery Community College, agencies, organizations,
businesses and places of worship,” Carr said. “One fun thing I did recently
was to teach middle- school age adolescents at two of our Advantage After
School Programs a skill for putting the brakes on unproductive worrying and
then we created “worry boxes” a physical reminder for kicking worries out
of our beds, and putting them in their own place for the night.”

Sometimes after a presentation, Carr said she will escort students to the
school guidance office due to their expressions of overwhelming anxiety and
depression or concern for the welfare of a friend. She said people of all
ages frequently respond with relief that mental health is a topic that has
been brought out in the open.

“So many have stories of their own struggles, or those of a family member,
and it is a burden to keep silent about it. It’s very lonely place to be.
Can you imagine not being able to share your worries about heart disease or
cancer because of shame?,” Carr said. “I think that my main mission as a
mental health educator is to dispel the misconceptions about psychological
disorders and emotional health challenges-to chip away at the stigma that
breeds fear and ridicule which prevents people from seeking help if they
should ever need it. I also am able to provide information about local and
regional treatment providers and supports.”

So what should a parent do when something doesn’t seem right with a child
or family member?

Carr said the first thing that should be done is to checked for physical
illness. She said a check-up with a family doctor or pediatrician is a good
starting point.

However, if that person’s behavior hasn’t appeared typical for two weeks or
longer, there could be a psychological cause.

Carr said the parents or caretakers should first try to stay calm.

According many national sources, like the Substance Abuse and Mental Health
Services Administration, about 13 to 20 percent of children living in the
United States experience a mental disorder in a given year.

“This doesn’t mean you, or your child, have done anything wrong,” Carr
said. “That said, symptoms like not enjoying hobbies, sports or other
activities, withdrawal from friends and family, and a change in mood that
lasts more than two weeks, should not be ignored. Left untreated, they
often get worse. Some may even become suicidal or drop out of school.”

Since sorting out which of a child’s or teen’s behaviors are typical for
their age, and which are not, taking a Youth Mental Health First Aid course
can help. YMHFA can help parents to know when there may be a mental health
problem or crisis, and then it teaches you a five-step action plan for
aiding adolescents until appropriate, professional care can be obtained.

Kerry Minor covers Gloversville. She can be reached at
kminor@leaderherald.com.

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