CHI Health Provides 3,000 Copies of Mental Health Children's Book to Area Schools

A New Norm' aims to help students identify & cope with pandemic stress

CHI Health is helping to combat student anxiety and depression by supporting schools across Nebraska and southwest Iowa. The state's largest health system is providing 3,000 free books, "A New Norm," to area elementary and middle schools to spark conversations regarding mental health.

"Educators are often the first adults to notice when our children are struggling personally. That's even more important now as the pandemic continues to create stress for families," says Marilyn Rhoten, vice president of Behavioral Health, CHI Health. "These stressors can show up in class making it challenging to keep education on track."

The book tells the story of a boy named Norm, whose "norm" was living with a cloud over his head and nothing he tried could make it go away.. Norm explores the confusing feelings of fear, anger and shame experienced during times of crisis and, through that journey, realizes there is hope.

CHI Health is also providing teaching tools including a discussion guide detailing the opportunities Norm's story provides for exploring anxiety triggers, coping strategies and finding hope. Also provided are guidelines for concerning behaviors, and when and how to seek help from mental health professionals.

"We believe in the difference teachers make in the lives of their students," says Dr. Cliff Robertson, CEO, CHI Health. "We hope these resources will support the teaching moments that happen in the classrooms every day. Supporting our schools is an important part of our mission to better the health of the communities we serve."

Recently, more than 750 educators from across the state registered for a first-of-its-kind virtual assembly aimed at supporting a safe return to the classroom. CHI Health mental health and infectious disease experts hosted the half-day webinar addressing questions about masking and social distancing, and highlighted the importance of self-care. "A New Norm" was featured during the webinar as a useful educational tool.

"In this uncertainty of returning to school it is nice to know that our community partners such as CHI are here to support us as we navigate through uncharted waters. The resources of webinars and support literature such as 'A New Norm' have been invaluable as we address the social emotional needs of our students and staff," says Mary Jankovich, teacher, St. Mary's School.

"At times like these, it's important to reach out for help. It's also imperative to reach out with help," says Dr. Robertson. "Together is how we'll make it through."

If you or someone you know struggles with depression and needs assistance, please contact the mental health experts at CHI Health available 24/7 by calling (402) 717-HOPE (Omaha, Lincoln and Council Bluffs area) or (308) 865-2000 (Kearney and Grand Island area). For immediate or urgent help, please dial 911.

Michael D. Schooff, MD, FAAFP

Priority Care

Renuga Vivekanandan, MD

Infectious Diseases