Tribe makes Children's Mental Health Awareness annual event

A parade of preschoolers with Teddy bears in tow walked single file from the Head Start building to the Washoe Tribe Health Center in Dresslerville on Wednesday.

The children were celebrating National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day which was on Monday, National Children's Mental Health Week this week and National Mental Health Month, the month of May.

"Mental and physical wellness are top priorities for us in our tribal community," said Head Start Family Service Provider Tippy Smokey. "We're just trying to do our part."

Smokey said Head Start has coordinated with the health center to establish a facilitated parent training to teach how to discipline effectively for positive results. Tuesday night the first class "Happy Children Are Our Future," was taught by Susan Brandon, a licensed clinical social worker and drug and alcohol counselor.

Head Start Director Gil Gonzales read a resolution followed by the children singing a song at the health center on Wednesday.

"The Washoe Tribal Council has passed a proclamation proclaiming May 8 as National Children's Mental Health Day," said Gonzales. "(We have) pledged to increase capacity and effectiveness to provide services to our children and families whose lives have been disrupted due to mental health issues."

The tribe hopes to make the event an annual one, and it has been endorsed by the National Indian Child Welfare Association to bring awareness to the community about the benefits of emotionally stable children. For more information, visit

Since this week is also National Nurses Week, flowers were given to each of the nurses who work at the health clinic.

The children were led in a song, "Tootie-tot," in which they have to do hand and body movements and make funny faces. The room was filled with people who came to listen to the proclamation and then watch the preschoolers' Teddy bear parade and short presentation.

"In Dresslerville we have 36 children both native and non-native who come from all areas in Douglas County," Smokey said of the Head Start Program. "This year we are transitioning 26 children from the center to kindergarten."

The federally funded program is for 3- to 5-year-olds, with low-income priority. It offers free bus transportation and breakfast and lunch. Applications are accepted no later than the end of July and classes start in mid-September. For more information, call Head Start at 265-1074.

n Jo Rafferty can be reached at or 782-5121, ext. 210.


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