A tiny therapy dog named Gizmo provides a path for elementary students to talk about something adults often find unthinkable: children experiencing thoughts of suicide.
Gizmo takes an upstream approach to support the mental health and wellness of youth. It is data-driven and evidence-informed. The Guide seeks to introduce mental health and wellness, and how to care for one’s mental health in a nonthreatening way that encourages the self-identification of warning signs and when to apply the use of internal and external healthy coping strategies to help reduce risk. It introduces the characteristics of trusted adults, who may be one, how to practice talking with a trusted adult, and promotes proactive communication. It gives youth the opportunity to create a personal mental health plan (of action) that they can use daily, and in a time of need that can help them avert crisis.
The Guide’s message is child-friendly and is presented by Gizmo, a 3.5 Miki dog who lives in Manchester, CT. He is a K-9 First Responder and Therapy Dog who is the mascot for the Connecticut Suicide Prevention Campaign: 1 Word, 1 Voice, 1 Life…Be the One to Start the Conversation.
Teachers can use a curriculum built around the dog to lead 5th graders though discussions of mental health, signs that they may have unhealthy feelings of sadness or hopelessness, and ways that they can both self-calm and find help for themselves or friends.