TIPTON - The Boys & Girls Club (BGC) of Tipton has always been focused on promoting healthy lifestyles, academic success and good character in children. This summer, they are focusing on something that makes all these goals possible: mental health.
Four County, a community mental health center in North Central Indiana, partnered with the BGC in Tipton this summer to provide kids with age-appropriate life skills programming.
“We piloted it this summer in the hopes of implementing it year-round as programming,” Mendenhall said. “Four County is in the schools in Tipton so just having that continuum of care from school to here and being the same people, the same programs, the same lingo, we saw as a benefit.”
Some parents approached Mendenhall about wanting one-on-one therapy for their kids at the Boys & Girls Club but policy didn’t allow for it. Mendenhall said Boys & Girls Club policy does not allow for one-on-ones with children at the club, whether it be BGC staff or therapists from Four County.
So they tried to get creative.
Lisa Willis-Gidley, Four County vice president of operations for the southern region, reached out to Amanda Mendenhall after hearing about their needs at a Systems of Care committee meeting.
Four County and the Tipton Boys & Girls Club both are in the Systems of Care committee for Tipton County, a committee focused on youth services in the community.
During the school year, Mendenhall had tried implementing programming on anger management, bullying and de-escalation, but she wanted to bring in the experts this summer to see what Four County could do for the kids. Skills trainers have come every week during BGC’s summer programming to work with kids from kindergarteners to ninth-graders.
Mendenhall said the older kids seem to appreciate the programming and are more engaged than the younger kids but the younger kids are still learning quite a bit.
Skills Trainer Alyssa Browning works with middle schoolers and early high schoolers at the BGC and said they focus on many of the issues students face in their teens like peer pressure, bullying, self-image, self-esteem, alcohol, drugs and how media affects decision-making. She said the eighth- and ninth-graders are most receptive to the lessons.
“They understand more, they face more peer pressure and they know more of the world,” Browning said.
Mendenhall said Four County also trained BGC staff at the beginning of the summer in small practices like “brain breaks,” activities that can be used to relax or refocus children, and these practices have made a big difference in how meltdowns are handled. The staff taught the teens about “brain breaks” and they have used the practice to help younger kids on multiple occasions.
Mendenhall said she’s personally passionate about implementing mental health programming at the BGC and expanding the definition of healthy lifestyles.
“It’s about whole person health, she said. “It’s not just about making healthy food choices or getting enough sleep.”