It’s a real problem that many families struggle to address. “It’s estimated that in Southwest Florida, 46,000 children have a mental health illness or challenge,” said Lorena Rodriguez, a child advocate at Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida.
But new programs at Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida are working to empower and educate families on mental health issues. “The Kids Minds Matter initiative is an initiative to address the unmet mental health needs of the children in Southwest Florida,” said Rodriguez.
Golisano child life advocates travel throughout Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties discussing topics like suicide prevention, Mental Health First Aid, and parenting the exceptional child.
“Because there is such a lack of services here, we are trying to bring awareness, and really by teaching these classes and offering these training to the community, we are enhancing the community as a whole and their ability to take care of our children,” Rodriguez said.
In addition to educating the community, the programs offer support for families of children with special needs and mental illness. We always have great feedback on these classes. It really is working to break away the stigma associated with mental health. That is the number one reason families, or individuals don’t seek help is because of the stigma associated with mental health,” she said.
Being able to recognize the signs can help to prevent a crisis from occurring and give the community the tools they need to help children who are struggling with mental illness.