Celebrating a Birthday during COVID-19 at home

My grandson was upset that he couldn’t go shopping for a birthday present for my recent birthday. He told his mom that it wasn’t fair to me that I wouldn’t get a birthday party and a nice gift from him, so she let him give me a call to make sure it was okay. He was so sad that he was crying… poor baby. Our conversation and the ending result turned out to be better than any birthday ever.

I reminded him that the thing that made me most happy was that he thought of me. Since he called me, I knew he was thinking about me, and that made me happier than any gift. I also reminded him of the wonderful birthday surprise that he and his classmates (and others) did for his friend from school for his birthday.

You can imagine how hard it would be to become 4, 5, 6, or 7 and not be able to have a celebration with your friends, so the boy’s mom sent out a birthday invitation to surprise him with a parade! This family lives in another town, but my daughter thought it was important to show the little guy that he was still being thought of and not forgotten, even though COVID-19 has everyone sheltering in place.

My grandson and his mom were early, so they got to be at the beginning of the line of about 50 carloads of families which showed up to wish the little boy a Happy Birthday. Our boys were able to have a good conversation (from a distance) before the parade started, and a gift was left on the sidewalk. There were hand-made signs and music and gifts and family, friends, and classmates in each car. My grandson was so excited. “What is most important,” he said, “Is Kindness!”

Reminding him of this made him feel better and gave him an idea. Later in the day, as I was leaving to go to the VA hospital, a little voice yells out to me, “Hey Grandma!” (Hearing that voice always melts my heart). He had brought me some birthday presents that he had painted. I couldn’t have asked for a better gift than something my little fella made from his heart especially for me… except for the joy he had in giving me something so special.

COVID-19 might slow us down. but it can’t stop kindness and love. Happy Birthday!

It is Mental Health Awareness month. Do you know someone who may need some help? The Novel Corona Virus – 19 (COVID-19) has put us in a position where people we know may be suffering mentally or emotionally. For many, social distancing means they will have to stay home, alone, for a very long time. Isolation is one the main causes of depression in many people, and social distancing may seem like isolation to some.

What can we do to help? First: Reach out to people who may be home alone for a long time. Check on them, and let them know that they can be in contact with others in many ways. There are many ways to communicate while social distancing: Phone, computer, signs… and my son would even say… smoke signals! We may not be able to be together in person, but we can still be together in other ways.

If you think that someone is suffering from depression, severe anxiety, or any other mental health issues, encourage that person to get some help. If you are the one who is having issues, make sure you take care of yourself, as well. Self-care is important… and can be done in many creative ways. Look out for others, but take care of yourself as well.

As usual, We will try to send a message or two, every week, during the month of May! We will get through this together.

Things are progressing at the National Council for Behavioral Health, and Mental Health First Aid will be announcing some exciting new programs, later in 2020. This is exciting stuff!

The first exciting thing is that the testing of the new Teen Mental Health First Aid (tMHFA), a teen peer support program designed to give students some information and skills to help their friends who may be suffering from mental health issues, is in its completion stages, and I think they will be rolling out the new program within a year or so. This is exciting, because teens are more likely to talk with their friends than an adult, so we can identify and get these kids help much earlier than before. Early intervention is key to successful outcomes, so this is great news!

We also have gotten word that there will probably be a choice of an alternative course format for Mental Health First Aid in the future! The new format will require that participants do several hours of coursework on their own before coming to class. Then, at class, we support the information with addition information and exercises to support ALGEE. This will enable us to cut down the time for class to about half a day, instead of the whole day class. Since it will take some time to train instructors, but word is that this is a result of so many people asking for a shorter class.

Finally, a new early childhood version of Youth Mental Health First Aid is rumored to be on its way out of testing, very soon. You asked for YMHFA for younger kids than adolescents for those of you who need information for younger children. The National Council is always listening, and they value your comments and suggestions in course evaluations! Thanks to you, we will be able to help more and more people get the help they need and save even more lives.

We were able to travel to Ferris State University’s downtown Grand Rapids campus, last week, to train and certify 25 faculty and staff members in Mental Health First Aid for Higher Education (adult certification). By far, this was one of my favorite seminars because of the warm, caring people we met. The following photos are team photos from our class.

The Higher Education version of Mental Health First Aid was uniquely created for people who work with college students and for college students.

We talked about how the culture of college life is unique.

We also discussed the special risk factors and needs of students & faculty.

The main goal is to be able to recognize and address the special mental health concerns and needs of the students and faculty members, and to move students toward finding professional help when they may need to.

The Ferris State community was fantastic, and we want to thank them for their hospitality and care for all of their students. Their students are lucky to have them! Go Bulldogs!

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