I can’t tell you how exited we at ACMH are to welcome you to the new ACMH web page. I thought it might be helpful to use this very first blog entry as a way to tell you what we hoped the site would offer when we started off on this grand venture. Later this area will host guest bloggers including parents, youth, community partners and other ‘experts’ in children’s mental health who wish to share their wisdom.
For years we at ACMH have wrestled with the reality that even though we know how incredibly valuable easy access to information and connection to other families who have ‘been there and done that’ is to families of children and youth with mental health challenges; The stark reality is that there will never be enough people, time or dollars to make information and individual family-to-family support readily available to all families across Michigan.
There are over 2 million children under the age of 18 in Michigan and of those 2 million at least 200,000 are children living with a significant mental health disorder. While ACMH has supported thousands of families raising children and youth with emotional, behavioral, or mental health needs across the state in its 27-year history, there are thousands of others that still need support.
We wanted to find a way to increase our capacity to provide statewide parent support education and advocacy in the areas across Michigan where we are not and hope our new website gives us a way to at least have an electronic means to reach out and offer information, connection and support on an on-going basis.
By increasing the number of families who are able to access ongoing information and support on our website, we hope to one step closer to our overarching goal and mission, that All Michigan children and youth with emotional, behavioral, or mental health disorders and their families live in a safe and welcoming community with access to needed services and supports.
Our main goal for the new website was to create a ‘sense of community and connectedness’ for families of kids with mental health challenges in an effort to help them to feel less alone, more supported and hopeful, as well as, give them easy access to timely, relevant information that meets their needs.
We wanted a visit to our site to feel like sitting down with a fellow parent who has “been there, done that.” We tried to take a parent-to-parent approach throughout the site and provide the same types of information you might find while sitting down to coffee with a group of families or attending a support group. We understand that no website can ever replace or compete with real life ‘live’ connections but wanted to have an alternative available for those times and situations when you cannot easily access in-person support.
ACMH understands that a unique connection is formed between parents/caregivers who have walked the walk, experienced blame, shame or the immobilizing fear of not knowing how to help their child, those who have experienced the process of coming to terms with parenting a child with significant mental health needs and those who have found their voice and triumphed. This unique connection has helped hundreds, maybe thousands gain the skills, knowledge, and abilities they need to meet the day-to-day challenges of raising a child with mental health needs. ACMH wants to help families have access to connections!
ACMH also understands that families of children with mental health issues face challenges every day—from behavioral outbursts to homework struggles to navigating the complexities of basic social situations. Sometimes just getting kids off to school, dinner on the table or the kids to bed without incident is considered a major triumph! So when families are searching for information and/or support, finding it should be simple. This new website will allow us to be available to families when they need us, even if the only free time they have is 11 p.m. or in the middle of the night after a crisis when they need a little information or reassurance.
Other Goals of the Website Include, Creating:
- An interactive online community with real time opportunities for families to come together, share information and get support. We wanted the site to have places for you to contribute hoping you’ll feel like an integral ongoing part of the ACMH family and what we do.
- A venue that will help to reduce the stigma associated with mental health issues by continuing to raise awareness about children’s mental health and the real issues that youth and their families face.
- A platform for parents and youth to share their story and expertise with others as a way to inform, reduce stigma and ‘normalize’ situations others are facing.
- The capability to host online trainings for family members, community partners and staff.
- A place for feedback where families and others can tell us how we can better serve them and support their needs!
We also hope our site can help you to find the tools you need to better advocate for yourself or your family and empower you to become strong advocates for children’s mental health in your community.
We would like to offer a special heartfelt thanks to the Flinn Foundation for providing funding for us to work with a website company to design and create our new site with all of the wonderful interactive options it contains for families and youth.
We would also like to thank Michigan’s Department of Community Health and SAMHSA, the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration for their ongoing support and funding of ACMH activities and electronic resources such as our Website!
We would also like to send a special thank you out to all of the parents, youth and community partners who gave us input on what would be most useful to them on the ACMH website. We could not have created this without your input and ideas!
We will continue to ask all of you for your feedback as we travel along on this great adventure. We will need to know what portions of the site you like, what is missing and what you would like to see more of. The site also provides us with an opportunity to post weekly polls and surveys to get ‘your take’ on important issues, as well as, real time interactive opportunities to meet and share information about important issues related to children’s mental health. We will be counting on all of you to help make our online and real time interactive opportunities to connect to other families and youth a reality.
I’m excited to share that the website has some awesome features that will allow you to easily interact with the website on an ongoing basis. We invite you to share your thoughts and your wisdom, ask questions and provide hope and inspiration to others. There are several parts of the site where you can share including: Ask the Expert, the Manual, Online Discussions, and the Youth Page where young people can showcase creative writing, artwork or photography. You can also join us as a Guest Blogger.
Please know that this website was created for you! We want it to meet your needs and for you to feel like you are a part of it’s success. So please be sure to let us know your thoughts and participate. With your help we can reach our dream to have an online community that connects, supports, inspires, and provides hope and that authentic family-to-family support that we all know is so valuable!
Again, welcome everyone and please enjoy exploring the site!