June 17, 2019

On June 17 over 90 community members came together at Forsyth Tech’s Rhodes Conference center to build relationships, learn, and discuss the topic of childhood mental health and its effect on our community.

Keynote speaker Mary Dame, from Amos Cottage, delivered a keynote address on how mental health presents in young children, the need for early mental health intervention, and how mental health stigma impacts access to necessary services.

A panel discussion, moderated by Victor Isler, Director of the Forsyth County Department of Social Services, provided insights from a diverse range of perspectives and subject matter expertises. Panelists included:

  • Kellie Easton, Board President, Action4Equity, COO; Co-Founder, Easton Reid Group,
  • Deborah Evans, MA, LPA, Staff Psychologist II, Amos Cottage Therapeutic Day Program and Outpatient Clinic,
  • Benika Thompson, Ed.D, Principal, Philo-Hill Magnet Academy, and
  • Joshua Ziesel, Groups Coordinator and Coordinator of International Student Support, Wake Forest University; Board member, Action for Equity.

Panelists responded thoughtfully to both questions prepared by Isler as well as questions taken directly from audience members. Major topics of discussion included:

  • potential warning signs of mental illness,
  • supportive services available to the community,
  • the role of mental illness and toxic stress,
  • opportunities for growth in support of mental health advocacy,
  • cultural competence in assessment, and
  • treatment options that incorporate the family.

19 community organizations were represented at the event, hosting information tables, handing out literature and resources, and making community connections.

Special poetry performances were delivered by LB the Poet and Forsyth County student poet Kaede Bost.

Major Themes

Staff from Forsyth Futures and The Forsyth Promise reviewed the video transcript from the event and performed a qualitative analysis to determine major themes:

What is early intervention and why is it critical?

  • Observation and general awareness of behaviors that are not typical of the individuals
  • Open communication described as a vital component 
  • Early intervention is a solution-oriented approach
  • Early intervention should be inclusive and ensure autonomy in decision-making processes between institutions and parents
  • Early intervention described as economically and socially beneficial

What are some of the early warning signs that we should notice?

  • Behaviors outside of what’s typically observed
  • Child is “acting out”
  • Impaired functioning
  • Difficulty with concentrating and self expression
  • Providers should consider role of toxic stress and environmental factors

Once something is detected, where can community get support, how to access support and manage cultural concerns? 

  • Information gathering from various sources is vital; the child, childcare providers, school administrators, teachers, parents, health care providers, etc. were listed as potential sources. 
  • Communication was described as a major factor in accessibility of supportive services and resources
  • Trust building between provider, community, and parents was also described as an accessibility factor

There was a lot of discussion around resilient children; what does that mean and why is it important? How can community build resilient children? 

  • Modeling resilient behavior and “self- advocacy” from the parent was described as a way to build more resilient children
  • Working to build autonomy within the children 
  • Support social and emotional intelligence and awareness
  • Provide opportunities to employ/use emotional intelligence skills
  • Support self exploration; allow children to make mistakes

What are promising practices in childhood mental health care?

  • Restorative practices in discipline and making the connection to potential mental health issues and behavioral health issues. 
  • Awareness of implicit bias, and role of mental health / behavioral health as it relates to discipline of minority children
  • Evidence-based practices that are proven to work with diverse groups
  • Assessments that are culturally sensitive and competent

Audience Demographics

We Want Your Feedback

The quarterly Be The Change convenings are a major pillar of The Forsyth Promise’s community engagement platform. We would like your feedback! Please take a moment to complete either the audience member feedback survey or the community tabler feedback survey.