NEW YORK, May 5, 2021 In honor of May being National Mental Health Awareness Month, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) is launching nationwide interactive Read-Along programs based on the children’s book, Gizmo’s Pawesome Guide to Mental Health© in partnership with the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) and the United Way of CT/2-1-1 on behalf of the CT Suicide Advisory Board (CTSAB) to promote positive mental health habits and trusted-adult connections for elementary-aged children.
Local AFSP staff and volunteers will lead in-person or virtual Read-Alongs of the illustrated Gizmo’s Pawesome Guide to Mental Health©, which highlights a small dog, Gizmo, who shares a big message for mental health and hope. Gizmo guides the reader through the importance of mental health, how everyone has it, what you can do to take care of it, how to recognize when your mental health needs support, what you can do to help yourself first, and how to connect with trusted adults when you need help from others.
“Gizmo gives children and their trusted adults a common language to talk about mental health, and offers a unique way for kids to learn how to talk about mental health with a trusted adult. By establishing this open dialogue early in life, it helps to normalize mental health as part of overall health and wellbeing,” said Robert Gebbia, AFSP CEO. “Research shows that the presence of a caring, trusted adult in a young person’s life can improve mental health outcomes.”
Gizmo offers guidance to children on how to recognize and cope with sad, mad and worried feelings and related behaviors, and makes managing their mental health – and knowing how and when to reach out to a trusted adult for further support – a simple, non-scary part of their everyday life.
During the Read-Along program, children are encouraged to take Gizmo’s Pawesome Pledge for Mental Health and complete their very own Mental Health Plan, which the book prepares them to complete with the trusted adult who accompanies them to the Read-Along. The child’s plan becomes a source of support when they feel mad, sad or worried. The trusted adult participating with the child in the Read-Along program also has the option to take Gizmo’s Pawesome Pledge for Mental Health, and complete the same plan. In this way the child is further supported by their trusted adult as they speak the same language in talking about mental health.
There are additional activities available on Gizmo’s website that may be included in the Read-Alongs, including word searches, coloring pages, puzzles, and activity pages. In addition, Gizmo’s Pawsome Guide to Mental Health©-Elementary Curriculum is now available for schools that would like to integrate Gizmo’s lessons in the classroom following implementation and evaluation of the curriculum in 20 Connecticut school systems, 100 classrooms with over 3,000 children. The two organizations plan to expand the partnership to schools in the coming months through three chapter pilots in Connecticut, Kentucky and New Hampshire before making it available through all chapters nationwide.
Gizmo’s Guide was originally developed with federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) state youth suicide prevention funding received by DMHAS. It is based on proven mental health practices, and it teaches elementary children, and others, mental health life skills that can help them stay healthy and safe. AFSP, through its local chapters across the country, is working with the CTSAB to bring this program to a national audience.
“Mental health is just as important as physical health – it’s all a part of everyone’s overall health picture,” said DMHAS Commissioner Miriam Delphin-Rittmon who was recently nominated by President Biden as the Assistant Secretary for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “By reading this book to children it makes us more mindful that, as adults, we all need to be aware of children’s thoughts and feelings, and their ability to process them. Children may not always know what to call what they’re feeling. Gizmo gives children and their trusted adults a shared language for having important conversations, and the CTSAB is so pleased to partner with the AFSP to make this resource broadly available to support them nationwide.”
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is dedicated to saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide. AFSP creates a culture that’s smart about mental health through education and community programs, develops suicide prevention through research and advocacy, and provides support for those affected by suicide. Led by CEO Robert Gebbia and headquartered in New York, and with a public policy office in Washington, D.C., AFSP has local chapters in all 50 states with programs and events nationwide. Learn more about AFSP in its latest Annual Report, and join the conversation on suicide prevention by following AFSP on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.