Praise Assembly Church and Children’s Church Ministries sponsor forum on children’s mental health

Praise Assembly Church and Children’s Church Ministries sponsor forum on children’s mental health
October 03
13:11 2023

By Felecia Piggott-Long, Ph.D.

Na-Twan Allen, licensed clinical mental health counselor for Transforming Senses, PLLC, served as the keynote speaker for the community forum on mental health at Praise Assembly Church located at 3254 Kernersville Road on Saturday, Sept. 23. The Children’s Church Ministries of Praise Assembly sponsored the forum. 

Dr. Johnny L. York is the senior pastor of the church and Angela York is the First Lady. The Micaiah Choir sang “All of My Life You Have Been Faithful,” by CeCe Winans. The lyrics remind believers that “Every breath that I am able, I will sing of the goodness of God. Your goodness is running after me.” 

Min. Keenan Long stated the purpose of the gathering as “finding hope, praise and hope in Jesus Christ while our children’s total health is being enhanced.” Long also planted two spiritual seeds before the discussion began. Seed one consists of “having hope in God’s presence will keep us strong, and the hope will become the knowledge, and the less we will doubt Him,” Long said. Seed two reminds us that “If we put God first in everything, we will find ourselves worrying less about most things.”

The teacher educators of Praise Assembly and the panelists were prepared to educate church members, parents, and local educators in the community about children’s mental health. Min. Gloria Smith facilitated the panel discussion. Smith is a social worker, a licensed nurse, and a daycare director. Smith introduced each of the panelists.

Nan Allen was educated at Wake Forest University, and she is national board certified and licensed as a counselor to support children and adults. Her goal is to build family connections between parents and their children. Smith introduced Amanda Nowlin as “a very dutiful mother of four children. She has an associate degree in special education from Forsyth Technical Community College, and she has been extremely supportive of her four-year-old son, who has autism.”

Rev. Victoria Johnson is a licensed psychologist at New Jerusalem Baptist Church. She is a graduate of Winston-Salem State University and Vintage Bible College. Donzella Marie Dykes-Brown earned her B.S. in nursing from Winston-Salem State University. Rev. Belinda Peoples is a retired mental health counselor and a school counselor in special education with a M.A. in education from Wake Forest University, a M.A. in special education from Appalachian State University, and a B.S. in special education from WSSU.

Nan Allen explained that “Mental health is anyone’s state of emotional well-being, but a mental illness is a diagnosed disability such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, autism and other illnesses that are common in children. Anxiety in children shows up as extreme isolation. The child does not want to hang out with their friends. Look for these sudden changes in behavior and mention these changes to your pediatrician,” said Allen. “As a caregiver, if a child is in isolation, we can have shame. We live in a society that is not kind to children. That is not your shame to carry.”

Allen listed red flags that parents need to look for so they can share information with their pediatrician or therapist.

“If your child experiences persistent sadness for two weeks, withdraws and avoids social interaction and does not want to go the annual New Year’s Party, and talks about death and suicide, the child needs to be monitored and needs to be reminded of the finality of death, that he or she will not be able to see Mommy and Daddy anymore. You need to talk about what death looks like in an age-appropriate way,” said Allen. “Use I-language, saying ‘I need to know how I can support you. I see that you are feeling stress. I feel stress sometimes.’ Validate their feelings.”

Min. Victoria Johnson encouraged parents to use praise as a tool of support for their children.

“I have heard parents call their children stupid. This is a child. What effect will this comment have on him or her in the future? Be careful about what the media says about their body type. Why let the media define your child? They are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God,” said Johnson. “Tell them they are beautiful, that their hair is OK. Don’t come down on our children. They already experience stress.”

Dykes-Brown focused on the topic of ADHD, a neuro-developmental disability that can cause hyperactivity.

 “Use organization as a tool to help students with ADHD. Instead of getting up rushing in the morning to get books, lunch boxes prepared, breakfast, teach children to prepare at night. This will be less stressful. They can be calm and more organized as they walk into the classroom,” said Dykes-Brown, a travel nurse who uses order as a tool for support.

Rev. Belinda Peoples reminded parents that the school system has avenues of support for families. Some of them include the school counselor, the family engagement coordinator, school health alliance, the school social worker and the teachers who work with students on a regular basis.

Min. Gloria Smith thanked the panel for sharing information with the community and the church.

“You did an excellent job. We all learned so much. Parents and grandparents need to know what to do to support our families. God is holding us responsible. It takes a village. We are parents to all of the children,” Smith said. 

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