Welcome to Westport Health Notes, a monthly column from the Westport Board of Health (BOH). The goal is to share information with our community about local issues and projects, public health alerts, and even fun facts about the scope of responsibility that local Boards of Health manage.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. The theme this year is “Forward Together for Mental Health”. As part of the Board of Health’s initiative to promote a healthy community, developing partnerships within and around Westport can help us address the health needs and well-being of individuals and families. Partnerships during the pandemic greatly improved our ability to provide vaccines and decrease the spread of COVID-19. Working together can also help us improve our ability to address other public health concerns amplified by the pandemic such as the rise in substance abuse, depression, anxiety, domestic violence, and experienced trauma. Mental Health Awareness Month provides opportunities to focus on mental health as critical for overall health and to provide education, tools, and strategies to enhance the mental health of individuals and families. It is also an opportunity to identify community resources and develop partnerships that support the mental health and well-being of all residents, from children to older adults.
The BOH has partnered with the Westport school department to plan events and activities that address the mental health needs of our children and adolescents. On May 11th from 6:30-8:30 pm at the new Middle-High School auditorium, Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Julie Love will present, “The Effects of Trauma”. The goal of this event is to help increase awareness and understanding of how trauma impacts our youth. It is free and open to all adults. On that day students and staff will be encouraged to wear green which is the color representing mental health awareness. On May 19th from 6-8 pm, the school leadership has scheduled Deputy Sheriff and Manager of Public Safety Education, Christine Leeman, to talk to parents about Bullying Prevention. She will also do several sessions during May for the 6th and 7th grade students. The Westport Elementary school has created a calendar of events for the month emphasizing the connection between a healthy mind and a healthy body. “Wildcat Spirit Days” include Feel Good Friday, Going Green, Music Mania, and a mental health awareness walk around the school grounds. Their consistent message is to practice healthy mindfulness, exercise, and random acts of kindness and caring.
On May 14th from 10am-12noon at the Town Hall Annex, “Mental Health First Aid” will focus on how to help someone in emotional distress or crisis. Pam Bolarinho, LICSW and Director of Child and Family Emergency Services will talk about responding to youth and share information about their services. Jaime Shorten LMHC, Assistant Director of Emergency Services from Bay Cove Mental Health will share other available resources in our area. Sarah Ford MSW, the senior manager for education and outreach from the National Association on Mental Illness (NAMI), and Brenda Venice, Board President from NAMI Bristol County will provide information on navigating the mental health system and on resources provided by NAMI. This event is free and open to all teens and adults.
May 21 will focus on putting awareness into practice. The BOH will sponsor a Wellness Workshop from 10am-3pm at the Town Hall Annex gymnasium. Speakers will address various aspects of nurturing mental health. I will present a model of mental health entitled, “The Wellness Triad-A Balancing Act”. Self-care mentor Nicole Lebreux will talk about “Radical Self Care”. Holistic health coach Chris Kaldy will address nutrition’s impact on emotional well-being in “Boost Your Mood with Food”. Jenn Mellow a Reiki Master will present “Let’s Talk About Stress”, followed by meditation and gentle yoga led by Jessica Howard, Director of the Heron Education Center for the Human Spirit. Registration is required by May 16th through the recreation department’s website https://westportma.myrec.com. There is a $15 registration fee. Lunch will be provided.
The Board of Health hopes that members of the Westport and surrounding communities will feel comfortable addressing mental health issues as critical to overall health and form partnerships that work collaboratively for the health and well-being of all residents. The pandemic has shown us that we are capable of partnerships that bring positive results and that to be successful in the future we should also continue to move Forward Together for Mental Health.
Donna Amaral RN, Clinical Specialist in Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing Board of Health member