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School district, partners, to discuss mental health in May

By Brandi Makuski

The public school district is offering a series on mental health with May is Mental Health Awareness Month.

In partnership with local professionals and coalitions, the Stevens Point Area Public School District will host weekly virtual conversations about mental health. According to Jennifer Knecht, principal and District Homebound Coordinator for Charles Fernandez Center for Alternative Learning the series will raise awareness, provide resources, and reduce stigma around mental health as it pertains to young people in the community.

Each Tuesday evening for four weeks, attendees can expect to learn about identifying an individual or group struggling with mental health issues, awareness of community resources, and how to build resilience at home, at school, and in the community.

Each of the following discussions will be held from 6-7 p.m.

● May 4: Mental Health in the Community-Panel Discussion
Register at: https://bit.ly/3wL4SxM

Mental Health has been at the forefront of conversations over the last year due to the significant needs uncovered by the COVID-19 pandemic. The effects have been far-reaching for kids, parents, and people from all walks of life. The impact reaches youth, parents, professionals, and communities.

The discussion will be led by Lisa Grassoff, Mental Health Navigation Program Coordinator at CAP Services. Panelists also include Michelle Nelson from St. Michael’s Hospital, Amy Pond, a crisis interventionist at Portage Co. Health and Human Services, Aimee Burazin, a SPASH School Psychologist, Trina Bierman, a Parent and Mental Health Navigation Program Coordinator, and two SPASH seniors, Alexis Durkee and Victoria Pizzello.

● May 11: Mental Health and Substance use- “Mock Teenage Bedroom”
Register at: https://bit.ly/3dSVfEk

Using substances has been identified as one way that young adults “cope” with difficult and uncomfortable emotions. Substances and their products evolve quickly and it can become difficult to keep up with identification.

Elizabeth Beck, a health planner for Portage Co., Debbie Mollendorf, UW Extension – Positive Youth
Development & Health and Well Being Educator, and local law enforcement will walk attendees through a “mock teenage bedroom” to learn about clues and signs of substance abuse.

● May 18: Suicide Prevention- Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) Training
Register at: https://bit.ly/2OAvsZ7

QPR stands for Question, Persuade, and Refer—the three simple steps anyone can learn to help save a life from suicide.

Just as with CPR and other first aid training, people trained in QPR learn how to recognize the warning signs of a suicide crisis and how to question, persuade, and refer someone for help.

Michelle Nelson, LSCW at Ascension St. Michael’s Hospital and certified QPR Trainer will teach community members community the ways to identify suicidal ideation, provide individuals a message
of hope, and connect them to the necessary resources.

● May 25: Building Resiliency with Dr. Pam Beyer, Clinical Psychologist at Ascension
Register at: https://bit.ly/3myHMFD

Mental health professionals define resilience as, “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress.”

Many of those factors have been heightened over the last year, according to Knecht.

This discussion will be led by Dr. Pamela Beyer, a Licensed Clinical Psychologist at Ascension Medical Center-Psychology with over 20 years of experience.

Beyer will discuss how young people express concerns with returning to “normal,” behavioral changes
in kids, and how parents can provide support, and offer various coping strategies that help build resiliency.

All of the seminars are free and open to the public.

Anyone currently struggling with mental health concerns or suicidal thoughts can call the following free,
24/7, and confidential lines:
● Portage County Crisis Line: 1-866-317-9362
● The National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
● Text HOPELINE to 741-741

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