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Program introduces children to mental health in Middle Tennessee

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Posted at 4:37 PM, May 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-12 22:00:34-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The pandemic has put a real strain on our mental health especially for kids. One program in Middle Tennessee is hoping to make conversations surrounding mental health easier.

Program coordinator Ashley Nunnally says their ETSY program aims to alleviate the stigma surrounding mental health.

The free presentations are offered through the organization Mental Health America of the MidSouth.

ETSY stands for “Erase The Stigma Through Youth.”

"We teach them about their emotional well-being, mental health and compare mental health and illness to recognize mental health is something everyone has," said Nunnally.

The program is available for children in Pre-K through 12th grade, with different presentations based on the age group.

"For younger children we talk about anger management, bullying, worrying, identifying feelings, and coping skills," said Nunnally, "but older kids, 6 through12th grade, we talk about erasing the stigma surrounding mental illness, bullying, eating disorders, we get into different mental illness, risky behavior, depression, stress, and text anxiety."

Nunnally says we need to normalize talking about our mental health and discuss tools to cope with stress in a healthy way.

"I have kids and it's important to recognize how they are feeling and know it's okay even if you're not feeling okay," Nunnally said, "like listening to music, taking a walk, and drawing."

The program is free and can be done virtually or in person.

“We also help them with identifying what we call trusted adults, who they are so if you have concerns you can invite pediatrician or a guidance counselor, for example, into that conversation to be connected to resources," Nunnally said, "for younger children, we use our mascot 'I-C Hope' is a duck and has a bandage and life preserver on him so we have children identify different things and we like to remind them that bandage serves as a reminder that mental health is real and treatable and the life preserver is a reminder that every life is valuable and worth saving."

This program isn't just for parents but teachers and summer camp directors, essentially anyone working with kids.

To sign up for the program, you can email Nunnally at anunnally@mhamidsouth.org for more information, or visit the MHA MidSouth Facebook Page.