First Line of Defense for Kids’ Mental Health: A Unique Gathering May 31, 2023 by Taylor Walsh On June 22 we are co-hosting a virtual symposium with the Harkin Institute: a rare interdisciplinary gathering of experts in education, mental health, school health, pediatrics, and the whole health learning (WHL) domains. Our purpose is to emphasize the importance of including those domains with the major initiatives that are in place to address the impact of COVID on children’s mental health and wellbeing. The growth of WHL practices through the COVID era parallels the emergence of whole health approaches in healthcare and pediatric practice that emphasize prevention and health promotion. This may suggest a potentially closer and re-shaped school-to-healthcare connection that is defined by support for whole child wellbeing and resilience during school years. This will be rare occasion for the leaders and specialists in diverse fields that support children’s health and academic achievement to meet, compare experiences and formulate substantive actions to move the needle on behalf of children and adolescent mental health. Their experiences, thinking and aspirations can make the case that now is the time (with the concerning shortfall of psychological and counseling resources) to bring proven whole health learning practices into strategies, campaigns, and partnerships, and to provide educators with near-term options for offsetting the impacts of stress, anxiety, and adverse conditions. Speakers include specialists leading and working with the following organizations: Inner Explorer, a leading provider of mindfulness practices in schools HealingWorks Foundation, developing whole person, integrative care to enhance health, prevent disease, and relieve chronic pain Children & Nature Network, leading national movements for green schoolyards and city spaces School Garden Support Organization, a burgeoning nationwide collaboration of school-based garden innovators Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine’s community-based Human Dimension curriculum Department of Exercise and Nutrition at the Milken School of Public Health at George Washington University Co-author of the seminal 2022 book, “Well-being in the Schools” A lead developer and coordinator of the CDC’s Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) enterprise The symposium has been developed by Adam Shriver, interim director of the Wellness & Nutrition Program at The Harkin institute and Taylor Walsh, founder and executive director of WholeHealthED. The Harkin Institute for Public Policy & Citizen Engagement is located at Drake University and serves as a venue and catalyst for dynamic non-partisan research, learning, and outreach to promote understanding of the policy issues to which Iowa Senator Tom Harkin devoted his career. The Institute was founded on the premise that good public policy is best achieved when policymakers have access to high quality information, political processes are open and well-understood, and citizens are informed and active participants. Happy Serendipitous Birthday to WholeHealthED! We don’t want to overlook the timing of hosting this event five years to the week from our inaugural symposium at Georgetown University. Happy to say that a number of the folks in this photo are still important participants and leaders in our work! Thanks to everyone who helped kick-start us!