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ZNE and the MA Department of Mental Health partner to raise awareness about children’s mental health

wellness safari logoZoo New England and the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health (DMH) are partnering to raise awareness about children’s mental health. During Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week, May 2 through 8, visitors to Franklin Park Zoo and Stone Zoo are invited to participate in a Wellness Safari that brings together positive outdoor activity with encouragement to have open, productive conversations about children’s mental health.  

A map will guide participants to particular animal exhibits throughout the zoos, where they will find tips on initiating family discussion and nurturing wellness and positive mental health in children. As guests enjoy the zoo's natural environment and connect with wildlife, there will also be staff available to answer questions and provide information. The Department of Mental Health will offer about 200 complimentary tickets to families through local community organizations and advocacy groups.   

Throughout the week, the zoos will join other Massachusetts landmarks such as Zakim Bridge, Prudential Center, Boston City Hall and the Worcester/Shrewsbury Burns Bridge in illuminating structures in green lights. Green is the color of Children’s Mental Health Awareness and both zoo entrances will be illuminated in green during the first week in May.

“The pandemic has been challenging for families and children, and the Department of Mental Health is happy to be able to provide an enjoyable family experience at the Franklin Park and Stone zoos, and to share resources that are available,” said DMH Commissioner Brooke Doyle. “Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week is an opportunity for all of us to focus on listening to and supporting the children in our lives.”

Information on mental health resources such as HandholdMA will be available to participants. DMH collaborated with the Executive Office of Health and Human Services and the Office of the Child Advocate to launch HandholdMA.org last fall to assist families in assessing their children’s mental health needs. Recognizing the additional impact COVID-19 is having, the website is an interactive, family-friendly tool that helps parents and caretakers find accessible answers to frequently asked questions about their child’s mental health. To date, the site has assisted more than 36,000 visitors.  

Copies of ‘Isaac’s Story,’ a children’s book produced by DMH and other children’s mental health experts, will also be available free of charge to Zoo New England visitors on May 2 and May 8 while supplies last.

“The physical and mental health benefits of connecting people and nature have long been known. It is especially important to provide opportunities for children to disconnect from their electronic devices, and explore the natural world,” said John Linehan, Zoo New England President and CEO. “We are pleased to partner with the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health on this important initiative.”