FGCU Interns Impacting Kids’ Mental Health

It is heartening to see the dedication and enthusiasm Annabel Meza and Brianna DuBois have brought to their internship at the Child Advocacy team at Golisano Children’s Hospital. Both Annabel and Brianna are students at Florida Gulf Coast University, which offers the only social work program for bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Southwest Florida. The Marieb College of Health & Human Services at FGCU places great emphasis on intensive, hands-on clinical internships, which are an integral part of the degree program to reinforce the proactive and connective nature of the field. At a time when there is a nationwide shortage of mental and behavioral health providers, programs like the one at FGCU are critical to the health and well-being of children today, tomorrow, and into the future. 

“What I hope to gain most from my internship is to expand my knowledge and acquire the necessary skills to work with diverse populations,” says Brianna. “I like the focus on mental health, and overtime, I hope to break down the barriers surrounding mental health in different populations. I want to be able to normalize the important conversations we should be having with children, aging adults, the LGBTQIA+ community, and other marginalized groups.” 

Embarking on a mission to give our community an inside look at the exceptional program and services offered by Kids’ Minds Matters, Annabel and Brianna are taking over our social media channels for the next few weeks. Beginning with our Mental Health Navigators, this philanthropy-supported program provides guidance and resources to children and their families facing mental and behavioral health challenges. Since its inception in 2020, the program has grown to serve more than 120 children and continues to be instrumental in making a positive impact on families in Southwest Florida.  

For one week, Annabel and Brianna had the opportunity to shadow Mental Health Navigators. Along the way, they gained valuable insights about the program. Valerie, one of our Navigators, shared with the interns that the most fulfilling part of being a Mental Health Navigator is providing support and connecting families to valuable resources when they need it most.  

During their one-on-one with Jean Claude, he shared the significant impact charitable contributions have on our programs. Through the generous support of our donors and community partners, we are able to provide vital programs and services to children and families at Kids’ Minds Matter. However, many in our community need support, and the availability of resources can be limited. Jean-Claude also emphasized the importance of encouraging parents and caregivers to take care of their own mental health, which can often be neglected while caring for a child. 

Brittany, another compassionate member of the Mental Health Navigator team, shared with Annabel and Brianna that she urges parents and caregivers to create a network of individuals they can depend on for support. In addition to the service providers and agencies that assist families in caring for their children, Brittany highlighted the importance of including friends and family members in their child’s life journey. By cultivating these connections, their child will have an unwavering community that supports their child’s success and development. 

“The most significant thing that I have learned so far in my internship is the importance of recognizing, comprehending, and acting when the signs and symptoms of mental health challenges arise,” says Annabel. “At my internship, they provided us mental health first aid courses that certified us to help youth and adults. I would like individuals to know that seeking out mental health resources and assistance is not a negative action, it’s actually a positive one. When you have a positive state of mental health, it promotes healthy choice-making, builds deep connections, and empowers us to overcome our obstacles.” 

In the coming weeks, Annabel and Brianna will be going behind the scenes of our valuable public education program, which provides classes for individuals of all ages. From parenting classes for incarcerated men and women to courses in emotional regulation for young kids, our public education program supports the whole family. To find out where Annabel and Brianna are heading next, be sure to follow Kids’ Minds Matter on Facebook and Instagram! 

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