When you’re a kid, you don’t really know how to use coping strategies when it comes to your emotions. Fortunately, a new curriculum, “Gizmo’s Pawsome Guide to Mental Health,” will help children across the country with that. It’s inspired by a cute little therapy dog named Gizmo.
Naturally, the Maltese, Papillon, and Japanese Chin mix resembles the Mogwai from the 1984 film Gremlins. His small size makes him easy to hold, and his sweet face makes him easy to love. He’s a perfect mental health advocate.
Helen Pridgen, vice president of chapter programs for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, told TODAY:
“Children have been over-the-top responsive to this cute pup and his message. Gizmo helps children understand there are things they can do to help themselves when they feel sad, mad or worried.”
Finding His Calling
When Gizmo was a puppy, he was approached by a teenaged boy on a hiking trail. Gizmo’s response was comforting at a time the boy needed it most.
Jen Adams, his person, shared the sweet story:
“He crawled into the boy’s lap. I asked the boy if he was OK with that. He didn’t respond but started gently petting Gizmo as tear drops fell from his eyes. A lady then came down the trail and asked if that was my dog. I said yes. She said, ‘Your dog knows. That’s my son, and he just learned his father passed in a tragic accident.’ Ever since then, I noticed that Gizmo has an acute sense for when someone is suffering, and he immediately wants to help.”
As a therapy dog, Gizmo certainly was a natural. He became involved in the effort to help kids when Andrea Iger Duarte from the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services saw him working at an event.
Heather Spada, a mental health professional who helped create the curriculum with nonprofit United Way, described how perfect Gizmo is as a representative:
“Andrea witnessed how helpful Gizmo was in connecting to the public and getting the materials out. All they had to do was sit him comfortably in a basket on the materials table and people came right up to see him. That led to the book.”
About Gizmo’s Mental Health Program And Book
The mental health curriculum, which is written from Gizmo’s perspective, aims to teach children to take care of their mental health by recognizing warning signs and developing healthy coping strategies.
According to Spada:
“We needed a way that was approachable, accepting and reduced the stigma related to mental health.”
A sweet dog seems like a great way to reduce that stigma. Gizmo’s Pawsome Guide to Mental Health is currently being implemented in 100 Connecticut classrooms and is also available online.
Dogs make everything better, don’t they, folks?