It’s been more than a year that the country has been dealing with the effects of COVID-19. Consequently, it should come as no surprise that the pandemic has taken a toll on so many individuals’ mental health. With National Mental Health Awareness Month coming up in May, the Hopkinton-based Mental Health Collaborative (MHC) wants to make it known there is help out there and it’s important to reach out for it.
The nonprofit organization’s mission is to build resilient communities through mental health education and awareness.
MHC founder and executive director Abbie Rosenberg has seen how the pandemic has affected people of all ages, in many different ways.
“As the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on people’s lives, MHC is continuously trying to help by providing programming in schools and other community organizations,” she said.
Since its inception in 2019, MHC has set as one of its goals to collaborate with local schools in an effort to bring mental health education to students. In January, that goal became a reality when Hopkinton eighth-graders were introduced to the organization’s mental health literacy course.
“The course teaches students a foundation to mental health literacy, including the signs and symptoms of different mental illnesses, the difference between stress and anxiety, the importance of communication, how to help others and combat stigma, and the skills and tools needed to manage mental wellness,” Rosenberg explained. “They finish the course knowing when, where, and how to access professional support.”
The remote curriculum is taught by Hopkinton residents and licensed educators Carrie Prisco and Gabrielle Giordano, who were hired and trained by MHC. Once the school year finishes, the two educators will have engaged approximately 90 students through videos, interactive programs and breakout groups.
Prisco and Giordano agree the course has made a difference in their students’ lives.
“We’re already noticing the impact of this curriculum as the students contribute and share their thoughts and concerns about mental health,” Prisco said.
Both teachers believe the course should be a mandatory part of the school’s curriculum.
“Especially during the pandemic,” Giordano said.
Additionally, Karen Renaud, the subject matter leader for the Wellness Department at Hopkinton High School, took the initiative to complete the necessary training and now is administering MHC’s curriculum to both ninth and 10th graders.
Quantitative data in the curriculum is expected sometime in the spring, but Rosenberg said the feedback from students and parents has been very encouraging.
This is a critical time to educate students and parents, as 75 percent of mental illnesses are identified between the ages of 12 and 24. MHC has been simultaneously offering programs to Hopkinton community members when able.
Training educators to benefit the school community does not come cheap, costing MHC thousands of dollars.
“The money we’ve invested is worth its weight in gold because our programs have impacted so many people,” Rosenberg said. “However, we’re continuing to rely on donations to keep our efforts going.”
MHC’s Young Adult Advisory Board is helping with the organization’s Mental Health Awareness Month program, which will be a social media series with the goals of opening up conversations, giving people hope and combating stigma.
Anyone interested in getting involved can join the MHC email list, follow on social media or visit mentalhealthcollaborative.org for more information.