Gizmo’s Pawesome Guide to Mental Health Guide (Copyright © 2017 All rights reserved.) takes an upstream approach to support the mental health and wellness of youth.  It is data-driven and evidence-informed. The Guide seeks to introduce mental health and wellness, and how to care for one’s mental health in a nonthreatening way that encourages the self-identification of warning signs and when to apply the use of internal and external healthy coping strategies to help reduce risk.  It introduces the characteristics of trusted adults, who may be one, how to practice talking with a trusted adult, and promotes proactive communication. It gives youth the opportunity to create a personal mental health plan (of action) that they can use daily, and in a time of need that can help them avert crisis.

The Guide’s message is child-friendly and is presented by Gizmo, a 3.5 Miki dog who lives in Manchester, CT.  He is a K-9 First Responder and Therapy Dog who is the mascot for the Connecticut Suicide Prevention Campaign: 1 Word, 1 Voice, 1 Life…Be the One to Start the Conversation.  Their website is http://www.preventsuicidect.org/.

Please read more about the development of the Guide and its accompanying curriculum…

Gizmo’s Pawesome Guide to Mental Health (Guide) was developed and released the summer of 2017 under the Connecticut Networks of Care for Suicide Prevention (NCSP) Initiative (SM62916), a 2015-2020 Garrett Lee Smith youth suicide prevention grant awarded to the CT Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) for 10-24 year-olds funded by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The NCSP grant is co-directed by DMHAS, and the CT Departments of Children and Families (DCF) and Public Health. The Guide was printed with funding from the NCSP and the CT Children’s Mental Health Block Grant under DCF.

The purpose of the NCSP is to develop, enhance, implement, and integrate sustainable, comprehensive, culturally competent, evidence-based/-informed youth suicide prevention strategies statewide to reduce non-fatal suicide attempts and suicide deaths among at risk youth and young adults age 10-24 in CT.

The Guide was developed to respond to a critical youth suicide prevention and mental health promotion education and service gap evidenced by the CT data, and to support youth mental health literacy. Utilizing the evidence-based Safety Plan (Stanley and Brown, 2012) as the framework, the Guide introduces mental health and wellness knowledge and skills to youth at an early age with the hope that they may keep and apply what they learn for a lifetime to help them stay healthy and safe.

These include:

  1. What is mental health;
  2. Mental health is equally as important as physical health;
  3. Daily activities that support mental health wellness;
  4. How to identify when mental health needs attention;
  5. Internal and external healthy coping strategies that support mental health;
  6. How to identify and connect with trusted adults; and
  7. Resources to share with trusted adults.

Gizmo, the mascot for the CT suicide prevention campaign- “1 WORD, 1 VOICE, 1 LIFE…Be the 1 to start the conversation,” and his fellow therapy dog and K9 First Responder friends use a warm and fuzzy approach to introduce youth to what can be a challenging subject for adults to discuss and for youth to understand. This approach makes the Guide engaging, memorable, and not only easy to use, but fun as well. As Dr. Lezine’s testimonial reads on the back cover,

“This book is a delightful new resource that can be used by kids to help themselves, and by parents or provider to help kids. Not only is the portrayal of Gizmo the therapy dog as a mental health coach a cute concept, it sets up potentially productive dialogues. The doggies model practical steps even little people can use to cope with emotional challenges. Elements of an evidence-based approach to handling distress with adults have been thoughtfully transferred to this kid-friendly format.”

The Guide’s accompanying curriculum was developed by the NCSP in 2017-18 in response to the overwhelmingly positive feedback we received internationally, as Gizmo has over 170,000 Facebook Friends-Gizmo’s Frens, from parents, grandparents, caregivers, teachers, school administrators, medical and mental health providers, librarians, youth service providers, mobile crisis services, law enforcement, etc. all looking for ways to bring the book to life for the youth (and young at heart) they care about.

The curriculum is flexible and uses activities that strive to help youth, their trusted adults, and the settings in which they live support their mental health and create a greater sense of individual and community connectedness thereby strengthening their mental wellness and reducing their risk of many negative health outcomes, but most importantly poor mental health and suicide.