“There is a connection between behavior and nutrition, whether it is obesity later in life or behavioral problems in kids. We all agree that needs to be a community awareness campaign,” said Roxanne Wooten.
All members raised their hand when asked if they agreed.
They also agreed a prime way to reach children is through youths’ parents.
“We might want to focus on parent education. Give them information on the effects of nutrition,” said Amber Lawson.
Ann Marie Brewer said there is a need for more mental health resources in the community. Members agreed those in need often have a difficult time locating aid. A lack of resources, and difficulty in finding existing ones, affects parents and professionals alike.
Eloise Waters said medical professionals at Bradley County Health Department find it difficult to locate mental health resources. According to Waters, health department employees called around for an hour before a patient was connected with the proper aid.
Lawson said another reason to educate parents is so they know when to seek professional attention.
“One of the biggest issues I see with children and families with mental health is that they do not know when to seek services. We see a lot of youth come through Hiwassee when really there is not a mental health issue there,” Lawson said. “There is maybe a parenting issue.
“I think educating parents on when to seek medical help, and when they do, what is available to them would be beneficial.”
Members agreed addressing the issue would be more of a process than a one-step solution. The stigma of mental health needs to be addressed before people will seek public aid. Joyce Clem said people are less likely to approach a mental health booth out of fear of what others will think about them. Lawson suggested using a different name for “mental health” at health fairs.
Dismantling the stigma of mental health should coincide with educating the public, members said.
One health council member pointed out many people do not realize TennCare covers aid for mental issues.
Andrea Lockerby of Cleveland City Schools said there is a lack of knowledge on the connection between mental health and a person’s exercise and nutrition. She said a mass reminder is needed to the Cleveland and Bradley County residents.
“Some children do not have parents who are available to cook bacon and eggs and toast for breakfast every day. So, what is it parents can provide in the morning that would be healthy for the kids to eat and get out of the door?” Waters asked. “That is what parents are looking for. Give them some ideas.”
Brewer suggested using the next several meetings to determine a plan of action for a community awareness campaign. Details on the campaign’s message and how it can be placed in a grant proposal will also be discussed.