Mental health program for children coming to P.E.I.

Handle With Care helps parents, caregivers of children up to six years old

Ryan Ross
Published on March 27, 2014

Nancy Cohen, left, Bonnie Pape, centre, and Alice Taylor are part of the team developing a new mental health program for children called Handle with Care.

©Guardian photo by Ryan Ross

When it comes to promoting mental health, the developers of a new program for children think it’s never too early to start.

The program, called Handle with Care, is designed for parents and caregivers of children up to six years old.

Bonnie Pape, a mental health promotion consultant, said Handle with Care gives caregivers and parents the knowledge and skills needed to promote mental health.

“It’s about the positive aspects of being mentally healthy,” she said.

The program’s developers have been working for two years on research to develop Handle with Care in its current form.

Alice Taylor, a P.E.I. partner in the program, said that work involved input from people who were taking part in Handle with Care and they helped shape it.

“It came from the ground up,” she said.

To help promote mental health, Handle with Care works on four building blocks: building trust and attachment, building and enhancing self-esteem, relationships with others, and expressing emotions.

The idea is to help parents and caregivers understand what children need and create an environment of healthy development. That healthy development will then help avoid problems as children grow up, such as addictions and other mental health issues.

Handle with Care gets its funding from the federal government.

Taylor said her dream is to see the program roll out across P.E.I. and be available in many different venues.

“In our looking forward we would like to see it in our elementary schools as well.”

Because P.E.I. is so small, Taylor said she sees the potential for the program to have a big reach across the province.

“We have a great opportunity here to make Handle with Care something great.”

Handle with Care will be open to anyone because Taylor said at any time any family could have the possibility to be at risk, such as changes in family dynamics.

“We certainly are looking at welcoming anybody who wants to take the program.”

Taylor said she hoped Handle with Care will be ready to start training facilitators in P.E.I. in the fall.