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Bills, NFL Foundation to assist Mental Health Advocates of Western New York 

Dion Dawkins. Buffalo Bills take part in the Inspire Change Outreach Day at the Matt Urban Human Services Center on May 6, 2019.
 Photo by Sara Schmidle
Dion Dawkins. Buffalo Bills take part in the Inspire Change Outreach Day at the Matt Urban Human Services Center on May 6, 2019. Photo by Sara Schmidle

The Mental Health Advocates of Western New York will be receiving a $5,000 grant from the NFL Foundation Social Responsibility Grant to provide a series of B.E.S.T. social emotional learning lessons for 77 Pre-K through Grade Two students in underserved communities.

"The financial support of the Buffalo Bills will make it possible for MHAWNY to provide Basic Emotional Skills Training (BEST) for more Pre-Kindergarten through Grade Two students in our community," BEST Director Mary Lou Montanari said. "BEST is a classroom-based program that helps young students develop the healthy social-emotional skills they need to be successful in life."

The grant funds will make it possible for the students to participate in a series of 6 BEST lessons in 2022. The teacher and families of each student will receive supplemental materials and activities to reinforce the skills taught in the classroom-based presentations.

It is so important for these kids to learn these skills because kids who know how to interact positively with teachers and family members are better prepared to focus on academics. Learning how to make friends, talking about feelings, and managing conflicts peacefully are all essential parts of early childhood development.

Even though May was Mental Health Awareness Month, it's so important that mental health is discussed outside the month as well. This grant to the Mental Health Advocates of Western New York will help with that.

"At MHAWNY, we promote the awareness of mental health and wellness during the month of May - but it doesn't stop there!" Montanari stated. "Mental health is the focus of our work 365 days of the year.  Be Heard. Be Helped is the tagline of MHAWNY. 

"To be heard and helped, people need to be able to speak up. With campaigns like, Join the Conversation and Just Tell One we are helping people understand that mental health needs to be talked about and supported by everyone."

In recent years, athletes have felt more comfortable speaking out about how professional sports impact their mental health. For the longest time, toxic lines like "Shut up and dribble" have made it seem like athletes are just there for entertainment and haven't been treated like human beings. Even though they play sports on a professional level, they still go through ups and downs and have personal struggles from time to time. Now we are starting to hear more messages from athletes of all levels and sports talk about their mental health needs.

"To speak about it, even personally, you should never feel alone in any situation," Bills' left tackle Dion Dawkins shared. "There are so many different people in this world that can help with so many different things in life and mental health is one of them. People go to college and study ways to help, ways to strengthen, ways to overcome, and ways to get over personal battles and individual battles. …

"There are so many people out there that want to help. You just have to understand that being vulnerable isn't a weakness, it's a strength. And opening your heart to help is not a weakness, that is also a strength. Understanding where you might be a little less than others is also a strength and not a weakness. And it's just important to simply step confidently in the direction that you want to go in life."

From people old to young, mental health matters and everyone should be able to get the help that they need. This grant will ensure that proper behavior skills will be taught to kids at a young age to set them up for success and a brighter future.

"Funding provided by the Buffalo Bills organization and NFL Foundation Social Responsibility Grant will enable us to spread the message that mental health starts at an early age," Montanari said. "When we teach SEL skills to young children we are increasing their ability to grow up to be healthier, happier adolescents and adults. The willingness of the Buffalo Bills to support mental health education provided by the BEST Program proves that they understand the importance of preparing for a mentally healthier future."

For more information on the Mental Health Advocates of Western New York, click here.

For more information on their (BEST) Basic Emotional Skills Training, click here.

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