Families invited to discuss issues related to mental health

EVERETT — A free event where kids and parents can learn more about coping with childhood mental health issues, from bullying to symptoms of depression and anxiety, is scheduled May 7 at Evergreen Middle School.

“The goal is reducing the stigma around mental health, especially among the youth in our communities,” said Heather Thomas, a spokeswoman for the Snohomish Health District, which helped organize the event.

Sixteen workshops will be offered at the Children and Youth Mental Wellness Fair. Topics include suicide prevention, parenting young children, building a better relationship with your teen, infant and toddler mental health, tips for helping parents with stress, and help for gay, lesbian and transgender teens.

Mental health issues affect children in a variety of ways, including their physical health, self-esteem, their progress in school and their risk of substance abuse.

“That’s where the focus is, prevention and being a resource for youth, families, or those in the community who want to help the youth of Snohomish County,” Thomas said.

The workshop’s goal is to try to help with some of the issues identified by local students in the 2014 Healthy Youth Survey. Nearly 30 percent of sixth-graders reported that they had been bullied in the previous 30 days and roughly one in four teens said they didn’t feel as if they had an adult they could turn to when they felt sad or hopeless.

Liza Patchen-Short, a children’s mental health liaison for the county’s Human Services Department, has been working for the past year with school districts and social service agencies to help students access mental health resources. The May 7 event is an outgrowth of that work.

Four of the event’s workshops are focused on relationships between infants and young children, including one on attachment and bonding, said Terry Clark, executive director of ChildStrive a nonprofit with offices in Everett and Lynnwood that focuses on early childhood development.

“For babies, their first relationship is with their parents,” which helps build the foundation for healthy relationships with everyone else in their lives, she said.

If something causes problems in the relationship, such as a parent with depression of their own, the parent isn’t reading the baby’s cues well. That can affect babies’ mental health and hinder their ability to form relationships, Clark said.

The Disney animated movie “Inside Out,” which deals with the emotions of sadness, fear, anger, disgust and joy, will be shown twice during the event. Afterward, there will be a short discussion about emotions and how to regulate them, Thomas said. A puppet story time for kids also has been scheduled.

The middle school’s two gyms will be filled with representatives from more than 90 organizations to provide information about where parents and children can get help with mental health, health care, counseling, parenting support groups, suicide prevention and healthy eating.

The event’s guest speaker will be Trent Shelton. The former Seahawk and player with other NFL teams is now a motivational speaker focusing on teens’ emotional challenges.

Photographers will be on hand to take free family photos. Local Girl Scout troops are making corsages to help celebrate Mother’s Day weekend. Everett Transit is offering free rides to the event.

Music will be provided by Casper Babypants, the children’s music artist Chris Ballew, who also was a member of the band The Presidents of the United States of America.

The May 7 event is the first in what is hoped will be an annual event focusing on children’s and teens’ mental health issues, Thomas said.

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; salyer@heraldnet.com.

Families invited

A Children and Youth Mental Wellness Fair is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 7 at Evergreen Middle School, 7621 Beverly Lane in Everett. The event is free. For information go to tinyurl.com/SnoCoWellnessFair or call 425-388-7254.

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