Culture of Caring

image of gizmo

Gizmo’s Pawesome Guide is Awesome!

From the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP):

In support of National Mental Health Awareness Month and our theme of #MentalHealth4All, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is delighted to announce the launch of a new, nationwide interactive Read-Along program for young children, based on the children’s book, Gizmo’s Pawesome Guide to Mental Health©. This fun and engaging program, which promotes positive mental health habits and trusted-adult connections for elementary-aged children, is in partnership with the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) and the United Way of CT/2-1-1 on behalf of the CT Suicide Advisory Board (CTSAB).

Local AFSP staff and volunteers will lead in-person or virtual Read-Alongs of the illustrated book, which highlights a small dog, Gizmo, who shares a big message for mental health and hope. Gizmo offers guidance to children on how to recognize and cope with sad, mad and worried feelings and related behaviors, and makes managing their mental health – and knowing how and when to reach out to a trusted adult for further support – a simple, non-scary part of their everyday life.

To find a local AFSP Read-Along program, connect with your AFSP Chapter.

To learn more about Gizmo’s Pawesome Guide to Mental Health©, visit

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is dedicated to saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide. AFSP creates a culture that’s smart about mental health through education and community programs, develops suicide prevention through research and advocacy, and provides support for those affected by suicide. Led by CEO Robert Gebbia and headquartered in New York, and with a public policy office in Washington, D.C., AFSP has local chapters in all 50 states with programs and events nationwide. Learn more about AFSP in its latest Annual Report, and join the conversation on suicide prevention by following AFSP on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and YouTube.

Gizmo’s Pawesome Guide is Awesome!

“Mental health is just as important as physical health – it’s all a part of everyone’s overall health picture,” said DMHAS Commissioner Miriam Delphin-Rittmon

Have you introduced upstream suicide prevention to your school or district yet? It may seem logical that suicide prevention policies should focus on middle and high school students, but the data tells us that we need to start much earlier than that.

It’s been my experience that schools rarely consider suicide prevention in the elementary grades because they don’t realize it’s a problem or they don’t think it’s appropriate to talk about it with young children.

But what if we could teach kids how to talk to a trusted adult about their mental health as easily as they talk about a tummy ache? What if every adult in the school encouraged help-seeking behavior? And knew what to say to children when they were struggling?  

We teach young learners about healthy exercise and good nutrition. Why not teach them how to take care of their mental health? You don’t have to say the word suicide. Just focus on using age-appropriate language for young children.

Why You Should Know About Gizmo’s Pawesome Guide

Upstream prevention means that schools start teaching children in age-appropriate ways about mental and behavioral health on the first day they walk into a school building. Or in today’s world, the first time they enter a virtual classroom.

Here’s how one state took on the challenge. Connecticut created and implemented an upstream suicide prevention curriculum in their elementary schools. Featuring Gizmo, the therapy dog, Gizmo’s Pawesome Guide to Mental Health helps elementary school staff effectively teach children about mental health, life skills development, and social connectedness.

We can’t only focus primarily on downstream prevention, metaphorically saving people from drowning by only intercepting them when they’re in trouble instead of teaching them how to swim before they go in the water. We know that the causes of suicide are complicated and different for each person. We know that suicide is usually the result of a long illness and may be triggered by a series of traumatic events. But we can prevent it by getting ahead of it,  

We have learned that if we start teaching coping and problem-solving skills in Kindergarten and continue all the way through to high school graduation, students will develop self-help skills that will help them navigate challenges during adolescent and teen years and into adulthood. 

The first step is to help children understand that their mental health is part of them, and they have to learn how to stay healthy and safe physically and mentally.

To learn more about suicide prevention for schools, read

A Culture of Caring; A Suicide Prevention Guide for Schools (K-12)

A Culture of Caring: A Suicide Prevention Guide for Schools (K-12) was created as a resource for educators who want to know how to get started and what steps to take to create a suicide prevention plan that will work for their schools and districts. It is written from my perspective as a school principal and survivor of suicide loss, not an expert in psychology or counseling. I hope that any teacher, school counselor, psychologist, principal, or district administrator can pick up this book, flip to a chapter, and easily find helpful answers to the questions they are likely to have about what schools can do to prevent suicide.

Theodora Schiro