Free emotional wellness screenings offered for children and youth

MAYVILLE – The Early Identification and Recognition Program is a program offered by the Chautauqua County Department of Mental Hygiene to promote emotional wellness in children and youth at an early age by conducting FREE emotional wellness screenings. It is a grant-funded program sponsored by the NYS Office of Mental Health. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (2014): For consumers of all ages, early detection, assessment, and linkage with treatment and supports can prevent mental health problems from compounding and poor life outcomes from accumulating. Early intervention can have a significant impact on the lives of children and adults who experience mental health problems.

“No longer are the days of ignoring one’s emotional health and sweeping it under the rug,” said Victoria Patti, Early Recognition Specialist for the Department of Mental Hygiene. “We now know that identifying symptoms, stressors, and emotional issues at an early age can increase the chances for a quick recovery. If we think about our physical health, we do not hesitate to get a screen done for cancer, heart disease, or cholesterol to prevent long-term issues, so why not treat our emotional health with just as much importance?”

An emotional wellness screen is just a quick check-in between parent and child to ensure things are going “okay.” Children and youth ages 3 to 21 can be screened with a brief questionnaire. After the screen is complete, the Early Recognition Specialist will share the results with the family. If needed, options will be presented for coordination or linkage to services for the child. Referral is ultimately left up to the family.

The emotional wellness screen that is offered through this program is a brief questionnaire that can be filled out by someone who knows the child well and for at least six months such as a parent, guardian, or teacher. All screens are free, confidential, and non-diagnostic. The screen simply will alert to areas such as emotional symptoms or peer problems that a child may benefit from having a more comprehensive assessment completed. The child may also benefit from other formal services, or even something as simple as increasing the child’s after school supports, or finding different activities in the community that will increase the child’s involvement with peers or basic activities to help self-esteem issues.

Today many children may face social pressures or other life difficulties; the screen serves as a nice check-in with the child or young person to ensure they are coping with these issues in a healthy way.

Anyone can make a referral to the Early Identification and Recognition Program by contacting Victoria A. Patti at 753-4519.

Patti will be available to provide free and confidential emotional wellness screens for walk-in’s throughout the summer on June 25, July 9 and 23, and Aug. 6 and 20 at the James Prendergast Library, 509 Cherry St. in Jamestown from 5:30 to 7 p.m. A table of local resources and other wellness information will also be available.

In addition, Community Coffee Chats will also be held in the Literacy Center at the James Prendergast Library from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. on the dates listed below. Coffee chats are a unique time for any community member to chat for an hour on a particular topic regarding child social and emotional wellbeing. The goal is to leave the discussion feeling empowered, supported, and having more tools for your wellness “toolbox.” The topics and dates are as follows:

July 2 – Mental Health Screenings Myths and Facts: This chat will provide general information about the importance of early emotional wellness screening for children and young people. It will also discuss differences between screenings and formal diagnostic assessments. Lastly, general mental health myths and facts will be discussed and questions can be answered.

July 30 – All About Wellness: This chat will be an interactive discussion on the six wellness dimensions; these include social, physical, environmental, emotional, spiritual and intellectual wellness. Participants will learn general tips and be able to discuss how to balance the six for holistic wellness.

Aug. 13 – Tips for Helping Adolescents Process Emotions: This chat will provide specific tips to parents or caregivers who would like to learn about the complexity of an adolescent’s emotions! Participants will learn how to help their adolescent adjust to feelings with a goal of learning how to cope with everyday life stresses.

Aug. 27 – Identifying Bullying and What to Do as a Parent or Caregiver: This chat will explore six different forms of bullying and warning signs. Participants will learn how to ask the right questions to young people and specific prevention tips for parents and caregivers will also be given.

For more information, contact Patti at 753-4519 or PattiV@co.chautauqua.ny.us .