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Bringing mental health wellness to the forefront

Nassau BOCES holds professional development for educators

Nassau BOCES is taking the lead to address mental health and wellness, and the stigma associated with mental illness, by hosting a series of presentations and workshops geared toward "educating the educator."

"We realize there's a need to address the concept of mental health and wellness in the curriculum of our schools," said Dr. Mitch Goodkin, coordinator of professional development for Nassau BOCES. "We're bringing in speakers from across the country, some of whom are internationally well-known."

The state law requires that a satisfactory program in health education must include mental health and the relationship between physical and mental health; and be designed to enhance student understanding, attitudes and behaviors that promote health, well-being and human dignity. Part of the law that Nassau BOCES wishes to address with districts is the recommendation to open dialogues regarding the stigma attached to mental health.

Dr. Goodkin added that some of what the educators will learn at the seminars will enable them to establish recognition systems; preserve human dignity; notice behaviors before they escalate; and identify the warning signs of depression, suicidal thoughts and possible violence in students. The ideal would be to have district mental health and wellness teams in place who can meet, discuss and come up with solutions for at-risk students. "By conducting these workshops, we are hoping to enlighten educators as well as students regarding mental wellness, dispel the taboos, and give them the starting tools to better support the entire school community," he said.

"The goal will be to eventually have the educators develop programs to help the students understand mental health issues and how to get help for themselves, if necessary," said Dr. Ron Smith, a trained psychologist and former school superintendent. Smith helped shape the state law. "In the last 12 years, there's been an increase in drug use and suicide. We want families to know that getting help is the same as any medical intervention, like going to any other doctor. We need trained staff to develop a curriculum to help those children and parents to help diagnose mental illness, and to try to identify it early."

Nassau BOCES is collaborating with the Nassau County Council of School Superintendents (NCCSS) to present some of these educational seminars for teachers, administrators, social workers, guidance counselors, and school psychologists.

These essential and informative Mental Wellness events planned for November are:

Eric KussinThe Long Island Student Support Team (LISST) Conference: November 5, 7:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. at the Long Island Hilton in Huntington. The Keynote Speaker/Mental Health Advocate will be Eric Kussin, founder of the non-profit "We're All A Little Crazy," and the global #SameHere movement. This conference is in collaboration with Eastern and Western Suffolk BOCES.

Blaise Aguirre, M.D.Practical Techniques in Validation and Behavior Management in Today's Demanding School Environment: November 15, 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tilles Center for the Arts, Brookville. Presenter: Blaise Aguirre, M.D., medical director of McClean Hospital; assistant professor of psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, and a child and adolescent psychiatrist.

Bill Dagget, Ed.D.From Social Emotional Learning to Mental Health: Addressing a Crisis in Our Schools: November 22, 8:30 a.m. to noon, Farmingdale State College. Presenter Bill Daggett, Ed.D., founder and chairman of the ICLE, is recognized worldwide for his proven ability to move preK-12 education systems towards more rigorous and relevant skills and knowledge for all students.

For more information, contact Dr. Goodkin at (516) 608-6645 or MGoodkin@nasboces.org.