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Wantagh School District parents and faculty attended the district’s first Mental Health Summit, held at Mandalay Elementary School on Jan. 30. The Summit provided parents with the opportunity to select from a menu of nine presentations by experts in the field of mental health, nutrition, emotional well-being and raising healthy and emotionally thriving adolescents.

Elementary school counselor Donna Schulman explained that a similar forum during the 2018-2019 school year, in tandem with the Long Island Crisis Center, was such a success that the district decided to expand with this year’s summit. In addition to the informative presentations, Long Island Crisis Center representatives and members of SEPTA were also on hand with important information. 

“We want to increase awareness of mental health issues facing families and give parents resources to assist with their children’s development through adolescence,” Ms. Schulman said.

Child and adolescent psychiatrist Dr. Caryl Oris was the opening session speaker who delivered her presentation “Parenting: Helping Your Child Achieve Academic Success and Social/Emotional Well-Being,” setting the tone for the evening’s discussions. She discussed the importance of early brain development and tips for raising successful children including self-control, communication skills and limiting screen and media time. 

“Good parenting is about having a good relationship with your child and working on ways to develop that relationship,” Dr. Oris said. 

Other presenters included special education teacher Angela Farinacci, “Essential Oils Support Healthy Emotions;” nutritionist and dietician Sharon George, “Food and Nutrition for the Family;” Long Island Crisis Center crisis hotline counselor Debbie Grattan, “Raising Resilient Kids;” elementary education and special education and gifted teacher Renee MacDermott, “Medical Diagnosis and Impact on Behavior and Academics;” EDUCATION ALIVE™ Wellness founder Diane L. MacDonald, “The Positivity Project: Exploring the Science of Gratitude, Kindness and Emotional IQ”; clinical social worker Jennifer Sedler, “Transition to Middle School;” psychologist Dr. Stephen Taylor, “Stress Management”; and Forest Lake Elementary School clinical psychologist Dr. Tracy Zelenetz, “When Children Worry – How to Support a Child with Anxiety.”

Mandalay Elementary School psychologist Maria Jones, who worked with Ms. Schulman to organize the Mental Health Summit said, “Our goal here tonight was to provide updated research and knowledge to assist parents with what is considered a more challenging generation.”