Expo to address youth mental health

By: Brendan Losinski | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published May 3, 2017

 Dr. Deborah Gilboa, founder of ask doctorg.com and well-known for her appearances on NBC’s “Today Show,” will be the keynote speaker at the upcoming Youth Mental Health Conference and Resource Expo at Birmingham Covington School.

Dr. Deborah Gilboa, founder of ask doctorg.com and well-known for her appearances on NBC’s “Today Show,” will be the keynote speaker at the upcoming Youth Mental Health Conference and Resource Expo at Birmingham Covington School.

Photo provided by Jen Carl

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BIRMINGHAM — On Sunday, May 21, Birmingham Covington School will host the Healthy Body, Healthy Mind Youth Mental Health Conference and Resource Expo, an event that will focus on improving the mental health of children by teaching parents and professionals how to address a variety of topics.

The event will begin at 9 a.m. and will focus on issues that are geared toward parents, caregivers and community members in the morning, and toward educators and mental health professionals in the afternoon.

It is being presented by Kadima, a 32-year-old organization that provides residential, clinical and psychosocial rehabilitative services to adults who are persistently mentally ill.

“It’s geared toward parents and guardians and anyone who cares about a child, as well as professionals who deal with kids and families,” said Jean Nemenzik, the director of clinical services for Kadima. “For instance, we are providing continuing education for teachers and social workers. This is an opportunity to gain information and learn some new skills to deal with problems that commonly affect families and children.”

The focus on youth mental health is a means of addressing mental health issues or concerns while someone is still young and can begin getting the assistance or guidance needed at an earlier age, thus preventing many problems that can develop from living with an undiagnosed condition well into adulthood.

“We have, at times, served children through primarily clinical services, so we also have education and outreach programs, which is what category this event falls under,” explained Nemenzik. “We want to break down the stigma around mental health problems, which is a barrier to people getting the help they need. Mental illness is like a physical illness, and the earlier you diagnose it, the earlier you can treat it and perhaps even cure it. What we see as the biggest things preventing those who need help from getting help for themselves or their children is fear or a lack of information.”

The keynote speaker for the event will be Dr. Deborah Gilboa, a mental health expert, founder of www.askdoctorg.com and a regularly featured guest on NBC’s “Today Show.”

“This event will address topics that seem scary and may seem better left alone, but we will show how they need to be talked about and how to talk about them,” said Gilboa. “It helps kids to address these issues directly, because the life lesson to kids is to set a pattern of talking and communicating about what’s going on and to manage problems while they’re small.”

Gilboa will focus on subjects that can be difficult for families to discuss and share about. She will provide advice and different methods for making it easier to bring such issues into the open.

“We’re going to talk a lot about resilience and how tempting it is when dealing with mental health struggles for a family to hide the consequences from the outside world,” said Gilboa. “You need to address it fearlessly and proactively. You have to address the issue head-on with honesty, clarity and energy. In the afternoon sessions, I’ll talk about different ways to discuss difficult topics, like divorce, death or addiction. I will be doing one session for professionals and one for parents.”

Following the keynote address by Gilboa in the morning and some other presentations for everyone in attendance, the event will have breakout sessions with smaller groups that will focus on individual topics.

“We’ll have breakout sessions, which range in age,” said Nemenzik. “From birth to 5 years, we’ll have understanding the importance of attachment and identifying anxiety in young children. From 6 to 11, we’ll be talking about building positive self-image, identifying and overcoming your child’s worries, and focusing on tips for building up your child to withstand bullying, and on the impact of autism on siblings. We’ll also have a group focused on kids between 6 to 18 years old, which is how to talk to your child about mental health concerns. In the 12 to 18 range, we’ll have adolescent development and helicopter parenting groups, one on gender identification in children and adolescents, a mental health overview from A to Z, which is a brief introduction to the main mental health diagnoses that arise during teenage years, and lastly, understanding and preventing addiction and its impact on the family.”

Gilboa said that mental health in families is a key concern in modern society, and the more open a family is about these matters, the better off the entire family will be. She said that is why programs like the Youth Mental Health Conference are so important.

“There’s no teenager in our society that does not think about issues of mental health. Even if your family is lucky enough not to have mental health problems, your kids will interact with, and even love someone, who faces those issues,” remarked Gilboa. “I am excited about the opportunity to be here, because families dealing with mental health issues often get marginalized, but every family will face these issues at one time or another. We need to give everyone a chance to manage mental health difficulties.”

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