Avera Medical Minute: 'A New Norm'

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KSFY) - When you think of depression, you don't usually think of children. However, according to the CDC, more than 20% of children experience mental health conditions.

To help children express their feelings and bring light to mental health conditions, Avera has partnered with the Children's Home Society to create an inspirational story called, 'A New Norm.'

"There once was a boy named Norm and inside his head was a terrible storm. Where thunder and lightning, and tornadoes would form, and it happened so often he thought it was norm."

"It was an idea that came from Shantrel DeJong, who works at Avera Behavioral Health," Tom Roberts, author of 'A New Norm,' said.

Roberts was approached by DeJong to help create a story that could speak to kids about mental health issues.

"It occurred to me that a lot of these kids experience a lot of negativity in their life on a daily basis sometimes, so often that it starts to become routine. And it becomes a part of what in their life is normal," Roberts said.

The story encourages kids to reach out and get help.

"I would say the most shocking number for us, if we're in South Dakota, is it is the second leading cause of death from those aged 5-14 and 15-24 is suicide," Dr. Matthew Stanley, psychiatrist and vice president of Avera Behavioral Health Service Line, said.

Taking on a unique approach to combat a growing problem in South Dakota.

"We're hoping with this book, in particular, because we're placing it in schools throughout our Avera footprint, that it will stimulate conversations with others," Dr. Stanley said. "That it will reach people that otherwise would be closed off to the idea of looking for help or understanding that there may be an issue that can be helped with."

For 6th grader, James Shea, he thinks this book will help others.

"I liked it," he said. "I can relate to it sometimes, and I bet a lot of kids can relate to it. It can help you if you have depression."

Inside the book are questions to begin conversations and a number to call if you or someone you know struggles with depression or anxiety.

"We are so looking forward to see how it will be received and hope that it will be a wonderful way that counselors and teachers and therapists and parents can just maybe read the story with kids," Roberts said. "And let it be a springboard for a conversation to talk about these things."

"The moral of this story is within you there's a spark... look now with your eyes but with mind and heart. Let that be your normal, let that be your start."

Through book sales, Avera and Children's Home Society plans to raise funds to place books in area schools. Some donations will also go towards services for both organizations.

For more information, visit avera.org.