116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Tanager Place is unveiling a new mental health resource to increase awareness, cultivate resiliency and enhance family and community connections during this mental health month of May.
Tanager Place is launching The Meraki Institute of Learning, an online platform to provide free resources, tools and educational experiences to families to increase their ability to respond to mental health needs.
One “silver lining” of the COVID-19 pandemic is that more people are talking about mental health in the way they typically talk about physical health, said Jennifer Null, learning development manager and therapist at the Meraki Institute.
Now that the pandemic appears to be ebbing here, people are experiencing increased anxiety as more people are getting vaccinated and are able to return to work in-person and attend social events. Some people may be feeling anxiety, stress and depression over “returning to normal” after over a year of social isolation, Null said.
“I hope because we all have had this large, significant time of retreat that moving forward we’re able to find more balance,” Null said.
The institute is named Meraki after a word from the Greek language, which is to describe doing something with heart, soul, creativity and passion.
"Statistics have shown us that we all have challenges throughout our lives. Some challenges we overcome on our own, and some need the support of others,“ said Okpara Rice, chief executive officer of Tanager Place.
“We have to work together as a community to reduce stigma and provide greater access for those who may need additional support with the stressors resulting from the pandemic and the derecho locally,” he continued.
“There is no better time to raise awareness for a greater need for access, understanding and support of overall wellness.”
Mental health must be considered as important as physical health, Okpara said.
Tonya Hotchkin, Tanager Place vice president of clinical services, said it’s time to reduce stigma and normalize talking about and getting treatment for mental health.
The mission of the Meraki Institute “is critical,” she said, and the pandemic has helped drive the conversation around mental health.
On Wednesday, Tanager Place celebrated international Thank A Youth Worker Day, providing a meal, games and prizes to Tanager Place youth workers who are impacting the lives of children daily.
Null said it’s “always important” to recognize and take care off Tanager Place staff who work with children and families through mental health challenges.
“We lift that up and do that a little bigger in May,” Null said.
Tanager Place is offering free learning opportunities this month through in-person and virtual training to help people build skills to recognize and address mental health wellness of children.
Tanager Place today is offering a mental health first-aid clinic, and will continue to offer clinics throughout the year.
Null said the training can be helpful for anyone, but especially for people who work with children such as teachers, parents, coaches and mentors.
The training discusses red flags of different mental health disorders and diagnoses children may struggle with and how to approach it.
“It’s like of like CPR in the sense that it’s always good to have that training under your belt and know the basics,” Null said. “You hope you never have to need it, but it can save a life if you do.”
The next mental health first aid training is June 18. It is free and open to the public.
Tanager Place is also holding a free virtual training on resiliency and trauma-informed care from 2 to 4 p.m. May 12. For more information, visit Tanager Place at tanagerplace.org or call 319-365-6411.
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