At iMPACTFUL, we love honoring and showcasing people doing outstanding work in our communities worldwide. Nominating mental health champions each month is just a small token of our appreciation for everyone making strides in the mental health sphere. With an extensive background in mental health and a professional career reflecting it, we are honored to introduce our Mental Health Champion for October, Cherie Burgess.
Below we have included the recorded interview between Cherie and our VP of Education Sales, Dr. Amber Gunner.
To start the conversation, Dr. Amber Gunner asked Cherie Burgess, “What is your why?” In other words, what got you started in this field, and what has kept you going? Cherie responded, “For me, from the time I was a young child, I always used to play teacher, and wanted to be a counselor, so the areas of mental health and education have always been my love.” Advocating for and educating people on the topic of mental health has always been a passion for Cherie. She says she’s seen how we highlight physical health in our society, how we are taught to take care of ourselves, but we don’t discuss the mental side of health. She has always seen the importance of breaking the stigma around mental health and feels the extent of her job every day.
“It feels about time,” Cherie says regarding people becoming more open to discussing and understanding mental health. As a district mental health specialist, Cherie and her team of exceptional colleagues have worked extremely hard to change the stigma, get people aware of mental health, and normalize providing school resources for teachers, students, and parents.
Florida recently raised a statewide question: What are we doing for our kids? To ensure we are doing enough for our kids, Cherie and her colleagues have been heavily involved and directly oversaw policies and procedures for mental health programming in school districts in Florida. This way, they could express the most helpful resources for schools. With the state's help, they could work closely together to push out comprehensive programs that make sense for students from kindergarten through 12th grade. Now, each district has a mental health plan that is aligned with the greater district's mental health plan. This includes education, prevention, intervention, recovery, support, and more.
At a school level, grades 6 through 12th grade have 5 hours of mental and emotional health education. These hours cover topics like coping with stressors, getting support, getting help, what resources are available, and more. This mandatory mental and educational time has also inspired students to take matters into their own hands. This includes incorporating programs like the “You Are Not Alone” program, other peer-based programs, Fun Fridays, mindfulness breaks during school, and having mental health providers on campus during May (Mental Health Awareness Month) to share information.
Mental health liaisons have been added to all schools, along with nurses. These liaisons are not only for students but also a resource for parents. If parents have questions, they believe their child might need professional help, etc. liaisons offer solutions-focused counseling for students and parents.
The work that Cherie Burgess and her colleagues have done in Florida to help de-stigmatize the topic of mental health and provide resources for everyone within and outside of those districts is incredible, and we couldn’t be more excited to have her as our Mental Health Champion of the Month for October.
To check out Cherie's website and read further about how the REST Approach can help heal trauma, check out her website here! If you think you know an SEL/Mental Health Champion in your community, please nominate them by completing this form!