Support groups offered for mental wellness

“Do you have concerns about your child’s mental wellness?” This is the question asked by The Okeechobee Children’s Mental Health System of Care, and if your answer is yes, the group offers many ways to help. On the second and fourth Mondays each month from 5:30-7:30 p.m., they offer Mental Wellness Support groups for elementary age through adult. The Okeechobee Children’s Mental Health System of Care has partnered with both the First United Methodist Church, The Church of Our Saviour Episcopal Church, as well as Our Village Okeechobee to offer these classes. All participants are served dinner.

Elementary aged students are able to attend Kids’ Club at the First United Methodist Church. This club is described as similar to a mini Vacation Bible School and this club does include a religious affiliation but is the only one of the four groups that does.

Middle school aged students attend meetings at the United Methodist Church, and their meetings begin with one hour of tutoring and homework help followed by one hour of Socio-emotional learning using a curriculum called Big Life Journal.

High School students meet across the street at the Episcopal church and their meetings follow the same type format as the middle school with the tutoring and homework help followed by a one hour class. Their curriculum is called WISE and according to Jess Olney, youth coordinator, it promotes positive mental health by helping kids and adults with issues surrounding the stigma of mental illness and it promotes a healthy understanding of mental health. Ms. Olney said some of the things covered in the class she leads are learning positive word choices. Rather than saying, “I suffer from depression.” You might say, “I live with depression.” She also explains to the teens that they don’t ever have to talk about their illnesses if they do not choose to, but they do not have to be ashamed of them either. She talks to them about social media and the way the things they post might impact them. If they post something about depression, chances are people will think they are depressed or they know someone who is depressed. They need to be prepared for that.

The adult groups are for parents who have children who are struggling with any kind of mental health problem or who are struggling with problems themselves and who need help navigating those waters. The second hour of the adult classes is a parenting curriculum called STEP – Systematic Training for Effective Parenting.

All of the groups are open to the public and there is no need to sign up in advance.

Cathy Womble is a staff writer for the Lake Okeechobee News.

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