Brainstorms: Youth and Mental Health
A Conference Supporting the Health of our Children
On December 5, several CASA board members and I attended
Brainstorms: Youth and Mental Health, a conference at Hofstra University hosted by District Attorney Madeline Singas and the Long Island Youth Safety Coalition. This day-long program offered an array of talented presenters, workshops and resources to help address the wide variety of challenges facing our youth: stress, peer pressure, social media, bullying, concussions, suicide, eating disorders and body image, unhealthy relationships and mental health conditions.
Keynote speaker Dr. Victor Fornari, Director of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at North Shore-LIJ Health System, shared how surprisingly common mental health conditions are in children and youth. According to the
National Institute of Mental Health
, 1 in 5, or 20% of children under age 18 are living with a mental health condition.
These include anxiety, depression, ADHD, PTSD, schizophrenia, eating disorders and other addictive behaviors, and can have a huge impact on a child's development. They affect mood, thinking and behavior and can challenge a child's ability to do well in school, form friendships, engage fully in life and find joy, possibly affecting them for the rest of their lives.
See the National Alliance on Mental Illness
Mental Health Fact Sheet
for helpful tips about warning signs and necessary support before more serious issues occur, including suicide, criminal behavior and substance abuse. Understanding the risks and diagnosing and treating early with intervention instead of self-medication with alcohol or drugs will result in a better outcome for the child and family.
No one is at fault when a child develops a mental health condition. Researchers are only now starting to understand the complex and diverse reasons involved. We must remove the stigma that can create discrimination and labeling and commit to understanding the best attitudes, questions and steps to take that improve the outcomes of children with these challenges.
I hope that as we enter the New Year, one of our community resolutions will be to work together to learn more about mental health issues, so that we ensure the health, safety and wholeness of all our children and youth. We all have a role to play.... what might yours be?
Happy and healthy New Year to you and your family,
Do you want to get more involved in CASA? Are you a member? Have you joined our SAFE Homes network?
and learn more about this important initiative that seeks to help our tweens and teens stay safe.
Thank You AJ Diaz for speaking at CASA Coffee
Your story of recovery from substance abuse inspired all!
On December 5th, AJ Diaz, a 2009 Manhasset high school graduate, spoke to parents and teens about his journey from underage drinking to addiction to
alcohol, marijuana, and Oxycontin, to recovery.
always admired the high school athletes who were known to party, and in 9th grade became one of them. On paper, AJ checked every box of the "perfect student athlete." He was popular, had good grades, and became captain of his football team. Nothing seemed wrong. However, he drank a lot
His binge drinking in high school did not prepare him well for college.
His drinking led to marijuana use and addiction to
Oxycontin in his sophomore year. He could not keep good grades. He quit football and then lacrosse, and couldn't receive his college degree on time. His life continued to fall apart until he asked for help and found his way to recovery.
AJ spoke about the importance of communication for both prevention and recovery. When he was in high school he did not talk to his family or his friends about his feelings - he kept them to himself because he felt "less than" or different, which exacerbated his drinking. It took the courage to be honest about the reality of his problems and to tell the truth, for real healing to happen.
Now in ongoing recovery, AJ is enjoying everything in his life again, including the trust of his family and loved ones. He hopes his story will inspire others to make different choices and live healthy, smart lives.
SALT (Student Athlete Leadership Team)
6th Graders for Life Skills and Empowerment Talk
On Thursday, December 7th, the
Student Athlete Leadership Team (SALT) spoke with 6th graders at Munsey Park and Shelter Rock, emphasizing important life skillls that help make smart
"real life" choices and decisions.
The SALT team is participating in a 3 -part training at Molloy College to gain the tools necessary to lead
a sixth grade class three times in the year. SALT training prepares the student athlete leaders to engage and manage the classroom, conduct "ice-breaker" exercises and talk about life lessons gained through
participation in extra-curricula
activities. The student-athletes will use their experience to deliver lessons about sportsmanship, bullying, and the risks of underage alcohol and drug use.
Upcoming Programs and Events