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Science Pub Will Focus on Mental Health Awareness for Parents in Urban Communities

By Amy Matzke-Fawcett

"Overly dramatic."

"You're just looking for attention."

"It's a family matter."

What parent of a teen hasn't said something along these lines? When raising a young person, it often seems the best option is to ignore the drama until it passes. But Narketta Sparkman-Key, associate professor of Counseling & Human Services in Old Dominion University's Darden College of Education, suggests that with education, parents are able to better distinguish the signs of a real call for help.

Sparkman-Key will discuss her research during her Science Pub on Feb. 20. Her topic is "Suffering in Silence: Mental Health Awareness for Parents in Urban Communities."

"There is a growing number of youth dying by suicide in the black community and a lack of resources," Sparkman-Key said. "I believe my work is important in bridging the gap between resources, education and stigma."

Parents should be given the same information as professionals, such as teachers or counselors, who work with students, Sparkman-Key said. In her native of Detroit, she worked with sex workers, drug users, homeless individuals and at-risk youth, making her acutely aware of the barriers and stigmas associated with those populations, along with the added stigmas concerning mental health.

"These children are really crying for help," Sparkman-Key said. "Intervention is important in saving the lives of these children. They are not acting out."

She views the research and advocacy as threefold: Helping professionals to work with diverse cultures, races and circumstances; researching populations in need of special care, including youth, impoverished and homeless persons, and others; and, the topic of her talk, advancing education to help these populations, especially in black and Latino families, to recognize the warning signs and symptoms of a larger problem needing help.

Although the talk focuses on parents, the entire community is invited to hear about the warning signs that may apply to a friend, family member or any young person.

"Suffering in Silence" will be held at Coelacanth Brewing Company, 760A W. 22nd St., Norfolk. Networking begins at 6 p.m., and trivia and the talk begin at 6:30. The first 20 to arrive receive a free beverage ticket. RSVPs are encouraged by Feb. 18.

On March 21, graduate students from across the university will give five-minute "Lightning Talks" on their research at O'Connor Brewing Company in Norfolk, followed by a question-and-answer session. On April 23, Jennifer Fish, professor and chair of the Women's Studies department, will discuss her research at Bearded Bird Brewing in Norfolk.

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