Mental Health Mondays – Normal is Overrated: Breaking the Mental Health Stigma for SWFL Teens

On Monday, May 10, Carly McGovern, founder of the Fort Myers Progress Panel, and Damini Parkhi, student leader, talked about Normal is Overrated, a program to help SWFL Teens talk about their mental health experiences to break the stigma and help teens find mental health support.

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What is Normal is Overrated?

Fort Myers Progress Panel was founded by Carly McGovern, who then was a student at Fort Myers High School. It was started to advocate for student mental health resources and awareness of the conversation around mental health. Normal is Overrated is an annual student-led event, where 4 to 5 students speak about 10 minutes each about mental health-related topics. A networking event is also planned to connect teenagers with resources. After the event, a question-and-answer panel is held for student speakers and mental health professionals.

This year will be the third year of the event, planned for Sept. 18, 2021. Applications are now open for student speakers who are interested in telling their stories about mental health. Interviews to select speakers will happen in late June. It’s important for students to share their experiences so that other kids can understand they are not alone. It takes a few minutes to apply, but it’s a forever experience. The event is free for everyone, and plans are to offer in-person and virtual attendance options. The event provides a voice for people who are unheard and to keep talking about mental health. Teenagers need to know that their struggles are valid.

I started this event because I personally had my own struggles with an eating disorder in middle school. It was so important for me to have safe spaces to talk about what I was going through. It is important that parents can hear from their kids as well. The best way to support students is to listen to them. – Carly McGovern, founder of Normal is Overrated.

New Weekly Student-led Meetings

Anyone is welcome to join casual student-led weekly meetings with topics such as depression, anxiety, body image, eating disorders, self-harm and more every Tuesday from 5:45 to 7 p.m. at the Quality Life Center in Fort Myers and via zoom. See resources for additional information.

How to Get Involved

Teenager participants and healthcare professionals are needed to speak or be involved in the weekly meetings or Normal is Overrated. Sponsors are also needed. We can’t do what we are doing without the support of Kids’ Minds Matter, who has been involved from the beginning.

Resources

  • For information, registration, and applications to speak at Normal is Overrated, visit the website: fortmyersprogresspanel.com or email: info@progresspanel.com.
  • Information is also available on Facebook and Instagram.
  • Normal is Overrated event is Sept. 18, 2021. QR codes for applications and registration to attend the event are available on Instagram.
  • Casual, weekly student-led meetings are held Tuesdays from 5:45 to 7 p.m. at the Quality Life Center in Fort Myers, 3210 Dr. Martin Luther Jr. Blvd., Fort Myers, FL. For information, email info@fortmyersprogresspanel.com.
  • Kids’ Minds Matter: Resources, shirts, and donations to support events like Normal is Overrated.

Questions and Answers

Q: How can community partners get involved with the Normal is Overrated event?

A: We are grateful for sponsors. Reach out at info@progresspanel.com. At our in-person event, we have opportunities to have a table at the event. During our networking time, our audience members will be able to learn about your organization. The event is a common ground where community members and resources get together.

Q: Do you meet weekly. Virtual? In-person?

A: We meet weekly at the Quality of Life Center in Fort Myers. We provide dinner. They are casual conversations about what kids are going through at school as well as what we can be doing. Meetings are in person and virtually.

Q: What if a student wants to be involved in the Normal is Overrated event, but isn’t comfortable speaking?

A: We are looking for student speakers, but we also have volunteer opportunities. Last year, we had a volunteer opportunity to collect food donations at Costco. We understand that not everyone is comfortable speaking, so we encourage them to come to our more casual meetings, to volunteer, or to help coordinate our event. We are always looking for people to help with social media and technology.

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Founded in 2016, Kids’ Minds Matter is a unified movement in Southwest Florida dedicated to advancing pediatric mental and behavioral health services. By developing clinical pathways to screen and treat patients, enhancing public awareness through education, and lobbying for systemic change and sustainable funding, Kids’ Minds Matter aims to align mental health providers, local agencies, the judicial system, law enforcement, schools and faith-based organizations. Kids’ Minds Matter is managed through the Lee Health Foundation.

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It’s Time to Act!

Did you attend the virtual Town Hall about the state of mental health in our community? (If not, view this impactful meeting by clicking below.) You can participate in improving mental health treatment in Southwest Florida in so many ways!