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Pencils, notebooks, and mental health

October 18, 2017
Amy H. Peterson - Staff Writer ( , Estherville News

This one is for all the kids going back to school. Mental Health America just emailed me a back to school toolkit. And it's not about the latest fashions, bento box lunches, or proper use of a school issued Chromebook.

It's about mental health. The tween and teen years are often the ages in which mental health problems develop. It happens. To at least 10 percent of the population. If not you, then a family member: one in four people is affected by mental illness at any given time. There's no stigma. It's not different from developing an eyesight problem and needing glasses. It's more like diabetes: it can cause serious issues, but also can be managed. Your brain is a little like a sensitive sports car: you have to learn to drive it the right way and take care of it so it will perform the way you want to. You don't want to crash it. You don't want it to stall out.

Mental Health America's guide says: It's hard to start the conversation about your mental health. It's time to talk about your mental health when: you just don't feel right, your thoughts or the things you do seem very different from the way other people think or behave, your thoughts, feelings, or behaviors are starting to affect your life at home, school or with friends in a bad way.

Or, if for more than a week, you have: felt sad, empty, hopeless or worthless, you've had sensitivity to sound, sight, smell or touch, you feel constantly worried, you're not able to do school work, you feel like your brain is playing tricks on you, hearing sounds or your name being called, but there's nothing there, had a loss of interest in things you used to enjoy, your sleep patterns change, you have restlessness, you have problems with concentration, memory or thinking, or a distinct loss of appetite or overeating.

If you have a bizarre personality change, thoughts or plans of hurting or killing yourself or someone else, or feel overly suspicious or fearful, you should go to the emergency room or call 911.

If you're not sure, you can take a screening at

Now for the grownups: Mental Health First Aid class is Sept. 20 at the Estherville Campus. I hope to see you there. If you can't make it, Iowa Lakes has expanded their offerings to other campuses. On Wednesday evenings Sept. 27 and Oct. 4 at the Emmetsburg campus. On Wednesday evenings Oct. 18 and 25 at the Algona campus. On Wednesday evenings Nov. 8 and 15 at the Spirit Lake campus. an 8-hour course that teaches you how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. The training gives you the skills you need to reach out and provide initial help and support to someone who may be developing a mental health or substance use problem or experiencing a crisis.

You could be that person who saves a life, or is a light in a great darkness, and the techniques are research-based and proven to be effective.

Public safety people and others can be equipped to perhaps keep someone in mental health crisis out of jail, freeing our law enforcement officers to do what they do best.



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