PPAL in Print
May 2021
PPAL at 30
Did You Know?
In the 1990s, parent coordinators (as they were then called) were rapidly placed in mental health agencies alongside clinicians and other staff. The Massachusetts Department of Mental Health (DMH) hoped that parents who talked openly about their own experiences raising a child with mental health issues would change minds and even how people did their jobs. Many parent coordinators were outspoken about their long hunt for treatment and pitched battles for mental health care. Unfortunately, change was slow - although it did ultimately come.
Children's Mental Health Week 2021
Turning Massachusetts Green
In May, we celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month. The first full week of May is devoted to Children's Mental Health Week.

This year, families, organizations and local governments got creative as they created COVID- friendly ways to raise awareness.

Proclamations in support of Children’s Mental Health Awareness have been promised by more than 25 communities, as well as the Governor and the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery. Several communities, like Gardner and Winchendon, held small events with proclamation readings.

Bridges, community buildings and homes were lit up green for Children’s Mental Health Awareness. Highlights of locations lit up green include:  

  • Burns Bridge
  • Fore River Bridge
  • Government Center
  • Longfellow Bridge
  • Post Office Square (Norman Leventhal Park)
  • Rose Kennedy Greenway
  • Leonard Zakim Bridge
  • Springfield - Union Station/Union Station Garage
  • High Rock Tower, Lynn
  • Boylston (library, town gazebo, Lions Club sign board)
  • Burlington Common and Youth and Family Services
  • Fitchburg Gazebo at the Upper Common
  • Gardner City Hall
  • Westminster Gazebo on Academy Hill
  • Winchendon Town Hall

Special speakers, educational events and community events continued throughout the month. For the first time this year, DMH and Zoo New England partnered up for a special event - which was definitely a highlight for families. At this event, visitors were guided to particular animal exhibits throughout the zoos, where they found tips on initiating family discussion and nurturing wellness and positive mental health in children. 

We are very excited that on-air personality Mikey V from KISS108 did a public service announcement for Children’s Mental Health Week, which is airing this month. Listen to the PSA here.
PPAL will continue to update the Children’s Mental Health Week website with proclamations over the next few weeks. Send us your pictures - we’d love to see how you celebrated. 
Last Chance to Register for Our June 4 Conference
2021 Theme: Holding Hands in Hard Times
Tickets are going fast for PPAL’s virtual conference, “Holding Hands in Hard Times,” held this year on June 4. Our keynote speaker, Andrea Berryman Childreth, will discuss her journey to finding balance and hope while raising her mentally ill daughter and battling bipolar disorder herself. Andrea will share insight and tips into what has worked and what has flopped over the last 30 years navigating the shame, stigma, pain and triumphs of mental wellness.
After the keynote, participants will be able to select from eleven workshops, including those on school avoidance, the school to prison pipeline, grandfamilies, the most common problems children are facing with the return to school, Caribbean mental health, and much more. Read about our workshops here.
Can’t attend? Consider donating the cost of a ticket so families that otherwise can’t afford to go can participate.
Learn more about the conference on PPAL’s website, and register here today!
Grant Work Benefits Undocumented Families
Stipends, Consultations & More Provided
PPAL's Worcester team has been hard at work supporting undocumented families through our grants from the Worcester Community Action Council and the Fish Family Foundation.
This was a 6-month grant that had a quick turnaround. So far, we have supported over 90 undocumented families with a one-time stipend per the grant to help them with rent, bills or child care. 

Through this grant, we were also able to provide a one-time clinical consultation to over 40 families so far. The funds provided through the grant also allowed our team to support these families to connect to more resources available in the area, including support groups. Our family support specialists Irelsa, Kathy and Pedro were instrumental in helping families get linked to support groups and networks in the region.

The grant also allowed us to provide hotspots or a Chromebook for remote school and other needs during the pandemic.

It has been a very rewarding grant that has benefited some of the most vulnerable families in our state. 
Youth MOVE Update
Connecting with Youth Across MA - and the Country!
Youth MOVE has connected with the Idaho Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health (Youth MOVE Idaho), where Youth Coordinator Dev shared his story with Youth MOVE-ers from that time zone. Our group is also reaching out to others in the state, and is now a member of the Statewide Young Adult Council (SYAC). 

Youth MOVE also coordinated a successful Virtual Art Show, where many peers were able to showcase their art. During this event, the attendees showed great support to the submitters (who were rightfully proud of their work), and everyone involved appreciated the effort shown by all. This art show was so successful that we are already thinking about doing another one next year.

We are proud of Youth Coordinator Dev’s Facebook Live topic "Dev's Toolkit," where he shares tips and ideas with the PPAL community. Youth MOVE also reached out to a mental health advocacy high school club that had made an inspiring YouTube video. There will be an opportunity for Dev to share his story with the club -- getting us one step closer to speaking in front of an entire high school!

Youth MOVE has been connecting 1 on 1 with peers who need support, and sitting in on CoIIN, TRANSCOM, and Technical Assistance meetings. Dev was also able to meet up and socially distance with his SYAC co-chair, where they discussed ideas for peer support, and even got some much-needed activity - soccer, frisbee, and dancing.
Statewide Conference Addresses Pandemic-Related Anxiety
A Wrap Up of May's Statewide Meeting
During our May statewide conference, Dr. Nadja Lopez Reilly, from William James College, spoke with attendees about “Understanding and Managing Pandemic-Related Anxiety.”

Dr. Lopez Reilly began the talk explaining the ambiguous losses we are collectively experiencing during COVID-19. She also described the signs of anxiety, racial stress and trauma we may be seeing in children across the age span - as well as in ourselves. 

Most of the talk was about what caregivers can do, including going back to what we know, co-regulating and practicing skills. She highlighted the importance of reflection, family patterns, and what caregivers know about themselves. Dr. Lopez Reilly encouraged caregivers to initiate conversations with genuine curiosity and described what that sounds like. We talked about how emotions are not bad; they are ways to understand and manage different situations.

Attendees said highlights included:

  • Information on techniques to manage anxiety and the signs and symptoms and the different ways anxiety exhibits itself
  • Curiosity questions and language to talk about emotions with our kids
  • The focus on the whole family and co-regulation
  • Recognizing that well-meaning parents may make mistakes which can create anxiety
  • Ways to respond to a child's anxiety in thoughtful, non-judgmental ways
PPAL Data Shows Continued Growth
Latest Numbers Now Available
In March and April 2021, PPAL continued to serve families throughout Massachusetts.
Parent/Professional Advocacy League