Emerging Practice

Gizmo Initiative

State/Jurisdiction: Connecticut
Setting: School
Population: Children
Topic Area: Mental Health & Substance Use

Gizmo's Pawesome Guide to Mental Health is data-driven and evidence-informed. The Guide seeks to introduce mental health and wellness, and how to care for one’s mental health in a nonthreatening way that encourages the self-identification of warning signs and when to apply the use of internal and external healthy coping strategies to help reduce risk. It introduces the characteristics of trusted adults, who may be one, how to practice talking with a trusted adult, and promotes proactive communication. It gives youth the opportunity to create a personal mental health plan (of action) that they can use daily, and in a time of need that can help them avert crisis. The Guide was developed to respond to a critical youth suicide prevention and mental health promotion education and service gap evidenced by the CT data, and to support youth mental health literacy and social emotional learning. Utilizing the evidence-based Safety Plan (Stanley and Brown, 2012) as the framework, the Guide introduces mental health and wellness knowledge and skills to youth at an early age with the hope that they may keep and apply what they learn for a lifetime to help them stay healthy and safe. Gizmo and his fellow therapy dog and K9 First Responder friends use a warm and fuzzy approach to introduce youth to what can be a challenging subject for adults to discuss and for youth to understand. The Guide’s accompanying curriculum is flexible and uses activities that strive to help youth, their trusted adults, and the settings in which they live support their mental health and create a greater sense of individual and community connectedness thereby strengthening their mental wellness and reducing their risk of many negative health outcomes, but most importantly poor mental health and suicide.

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Implementation Handout

United Way of CT
Jeanette Baker

Practice Website