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MARCH - time to go upstream

Dear Clients, Colleagues and Friends,

Happy Spring! I hope this finds your March more lamb than lion, and from what I’m hearing, I’m not the only one who thinks the nomenclature “March Madness” is spot on. It’s been a busy one!

Locally, we had an important mental health community conversation in our little town earlier this month. I was honored to be one of the panelists and contribute to this important conversation. During the Q & A, a thoughtful and pertinent question was asked, “When are we going to talk about the ‘root cause’ of these mental health struggles, in addition to offering resources after the fact?

This. How do we crush stigma, help those in need AND intervene early to prevent more mental health crises? To paraphrase Desmond Tutu as I often do: Rather than just focusing our efforts on pulling drowning people out of the river, let’s go up the river and find out why they are falling in in the first place.

Both efforts are absolutely critical, but not realized for a few reasons. One big one is fear of blame or fault due to guilt or financial loss. It’s clear that it is no longer just about “unlucky dna.” The way we are living, our current social structures and culture are absolutely toxic. Change is needed.

However, to make significant and meaningful change and alter the trajectory, we must talk about the “roots” without blame or defense, but with awareness, vision and power to make a difference. We must go upstream.

Co-founding the Free Play Task Force in 2017, featured in the documentary Chasing Childhood, was my first effort to go “upstream.” The connection between the decline of free play and independence and the rise in anxiety and depression was evident. Now, it’s officially a cause.

We talk about the risks of climbing a tree, but what about the risks of NOT climbing that tree? Our best intentions, with unintended side effects. "Protecting" our kids this way has hurt them.

Many parents know their kids are capable, but they hold them back because parents are afraid of appearing neglectful – we call that the “chilling effect.” I’m so thrilled CT is considering this bill to alleviate that concern.. A Case for Childhood Independence - My Testimony to CT Judiciary Committee Re: Senate Bill No. 1133: An Act Limiting a Finding of Neglect or Risk of Injury to a Child in Certain Circumstances.

There are many things that are therapeutic, without being therapy. And they go a long way towards prevention. Family dinners, outside time, adequate sleep, limits on technology and more play are all actionable, free ways to give our brains, hearts and bodies what they need.

Don’t wait, start today.



PODCAST GUEST: Loved my conversation as a guest of Vai Kumar of @Fresh Leaf Forever Podcast. I'm all about action so I especially appreciated this opportunity! The episode has valuable and actionable tips as we talk about many aspects of the current parenting journey -- technology, free play, eating disorders, finding joy, helicopter parenting, connection, scaffolding our kids and most importantly, what are we role modeling?

PRESENTER: As a parent support group facilitator for NAMI Southwest CT, I was honored to present at the Connecticut Region 1 conference: "Mental Health in a Post-Covid World: How to Ensure Emotional Health and Resilience in our Youth/Teens." In this clip, I share my journey to NAMI, how NAMI-CAN groups support parents of children and teens struggling with mental health issues and what our free meetings are like. This video excerpt includes both my presentation and a parent from my NAMI group.


About the Author

Vanessa Elias is a mental health activist, certified parent coach, speaker, and writer featured on NPR, PBS, and in the WSJ. She is the founder of Thrive with a Guide, LLC and serves as a group facilitator for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Block Party USA is her passion project. Vanessa helps parents achieve healthier family relationships and lasting, meaningful connections.


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