EDITORIAL: Pulaski 5th-grader campaigns on mental health awareness

EDITORIAL: Pulaski 5th-grader campaigns on mental health awareness

“It's usually a problem that's not really talked about a lot in school … but it's something that's very important. Your mental health really matters in your daily life because it affects you and the people around you.”

That was Ariana Moreno, a fifth-grader at Meriden’s Casimir Pulaski School, showing wisdom beyond her years in her campaign to become Connecticut's Kid Governor earlier this year. Ariana, 10, chose mental health and suicide awareness as her platform because “it's the topic that is the hardest to usually talk about.”

Ariana wants to change that, which is why she is advocating for more mental health resources in Connecticut. She was one of just seven finalists statewide in the 5th annual Connecticut Kid Governor election. Ariana was not elected governor, but will serve as one of six cabinet members under Kid Governor Myra Stanfield, a fifth-grader from West Hartford.

Moreno will be the second Meriden student to serve as a cabinet member. Jason Hayes II, a sixth-grader at Lincoln Middle School, currently serves in the cabinet after running last year on a platform of improving children's literacy.

Ariana’s focus on mental health and suicide awareness is important at a time when children are said to be under increased stress. Ariana said she has noticed kids her age tend to bottle up feelings of stress and she wants to encourage them to open up by establishing peer support groups and creating more downtime during the school day for kids to reflect.

“The goal really is to get kids to be more open about their problems,” she said.

In a study reported by the National Institutes of Health, researchers looked at a socioeconomically and racially diverse group of healthy children between 5 and 10 years old. The children of parents with higher levels of chronic stress and psychiatric symptoms had higher rates of illness in the subsequent year.

And the American Psychological Association reports that children aged 8 to 17 say they worry about doing well in school, getting into good colleges and their family's finances. They also report suffering headaches, sleeplessness and upset stomachs. But these stresses and symptoms are going largely unnoticed by parents.

We may put childhood stress down as just another symptom of modern life, but that’s no reason to ignore it.

Ariana's parents, Jenny and Michael Moreno, are rightfully proud of their daughter for taking on an important issue.