Eat Chat Parent family and community education series will focus on mental health topics for 2018-19 | VailDaily.com

Eat Chat Parent family and community education series will focus on mental health topics for 2018-19

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Dr. Lisa Strohman, clinical psychologist, attorney, co-author of "Unplug" and founder and director of The Digital Citizen Academy is committed to proactively preventing and reducing the issues students, educators and parents are facing as a result of technology use.

The need for mental health help, awareness and discussion is greater than ever. Young children have anxiety, middle schoolers feel bullied and high school students are stressed out.

Now is the time to be proactive, open and ready to create change and provide support and care.

Vail Health and Eagle River Youth Coalition have heard the need for more education, communication and community building.

Together, they are answering the call with the Eat Chat Parent series. The overarching theme for this year's series is mental health and the myriad of areas that both impact and are impacted by youth.

"When we learned that 16 percent of the seventh- and eighth-graders in Eagle County have a suicide plan, we looked for ways to increase local education and prevention," said Doris Kirchner, Vail Health president and CEO. "We are pleased to partner with Eagle River Youth Coalition to put on this series of community talks addressing the mental health of our youth, their parents and everyone in the community."

Eagle River Youth Coalition's Parent Advisory Council met and determined that many of tweens' concerns of youth stem from mental health issues. Such an all-encompassing topic demanded more than one or two sessions.

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'Facing our young people'

"At our (Parent Advisory Council), we realized that every issue and concern was in some way connected to mental health challenges facing our young people, especially in the areas of anxiety, depression, addiction and loneliness," said Gail Flesher, council member and parent. By focusing on mental health, we hope to maximize our ability to increase awareness of these issues among parents and children and possibly even see positive change in outcomes on a near-term basis.

"The fact that recent funding from state and county initiatives will be used to improve mental health through new facilities, school counselors and other means just reinforces how important it is for Eat Chat Parent and the entire community to focus on these key current issues."

Eat Chat Parent kicks off Tuesday, Oct. 2, and Wednesday, Oct. 3, when Dr. Lisa Strohman discusses technology overuse by youth. Strohman is a clinical psychologist, attorney, co-author of "Unplug" and founder and director of The Digital Citizen Academy.

Her focus is on proactively preventing and reducing the issues students, educators and parents face as a result of technology use — and overuse.

Not alone

The most basic tenet for the Eat Chat Parent series is to remind parents they are not alone in this quagmire of raising children, said Carol Johnson, community outreach manager at the Eagle River Youth Coalition.

"The best way to conquer risk-taking behaviors is to communicate about the topic at least three to four years prior to the behavior occurring," she said.

Eat Chat Parent classes help by providing the topic in an open, safe space to discuss issues, ask and answer questions and learn tips to better communicate as a family.

"We are really excited this year to delve into the mental health topics our youth encounter everyday, including technology wellness. We will discuss anxiety, depression, loneliness, social media overuse, how to be a good digital citizen, how to cope with learning and identity differences," Johnson said.

If you go …

What: Empowering Youth to Rise Above Technology Addiction, with Dr. Lisa Strohman, an Eagle River Youth Coalition Eat Chat Parent event.

When and where: 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 2, at Battle Mountain High School in Edwards; 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 3, at Eagle Valley High School in Gypsum.

Cost: Free, includes dinner and childcare.

More information: RSVP to Carol Johnson, Eagle River Youth Coalition community education manager, at cjohnson@eagleyouth.org. The first 50 RSVPs will receive Strohman’s book, “Unplug.”