The 2023 GTS focused squarely on the nation’s mental health crisis and its impact on the well-being and academic performance. The Summit’s sessions navigated the nuances of connectedness, well-being, resilience, belonging, and mental health challenges. Attendees came away informed, inspired, and with ready-to-apply strategies to provide growth skills, support, and opportunities.
The three-day event was packed with workshops and focused training sessions from expert professionals who presented on a range of useful, thought-provoking topics.
Dr. Ken Ginsburg, a pediatrician who specializes in Adolescent Medicine at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and a Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania, led an enlightening discussion of the dynamics of the mental health crisis, and how to navigate it to reach young people. “Humanity has been through some incredibly difficult times. It’s taken a toll on our children and adolescents,” says Ginsburg. “There IS a mental health crisis, and it is portrayed in the media with extreme, alarming terms. Adults feel overwhelmed, and instead of being activated to help, they instead feel paralyzed. But despite the crisis, the kids of today are not a broken generation – they are a great generation, and we must stand behind them.”
Watch an excerpt:
Ten-month old Maddie Mendoza, daughter of Air Force Lt. Col. Jun Mendoza and Dr. Crystal Mendoza, was chosen from tens of thousands of entries to be the 2023 Gerber Baby and Gerber’s “chief growing officer.” The Mendoza family traveled to Washington, DC, to attend the Global Training Summit and brought smiles to attendees throughout the event.
“Reaching forward, we’re proud that Maddie can represent MCEC and be a symbol for the work you’re going to do for another 25 years.”
Lt. Col. Jun Mendoza
U.S. Army Major General Mark T. Simerly, Commanding General for the Combined Arms Support Command (CASCOM), showed that military leaders are people, too. He shared his highly relatable accounts of growing up as a self-described “army brat” during his father’s many deployments to Vietnam. He also described his experiences as a leader of soldiers with families, and of being a father himself during his own military career. “Military children are faced with separation anxiety, frequent moves, deployments, transition periods… and always being ‘the new kid’," says MG Simerly. “They need welcoming environments to ensure that their education prepares them for the future. Simerly’s message to educators put the importance of their role in sharp focus. “As a military leader, I can tell you that the importance of taking care of our families and children – as a direct component of our nation’s military readiness – cannot be overstated.”
See an excerpt of MG Simerly’s message:
Ross Szabo, CEO of the Human Power Project and award-winning mental health trainer is also the co-author of Behind Happy Faces; Taking Charge of Your Mental Health. Ross gave a wide-ranging talk on brain development, and how it relates to the mental health crisis faced by children, teens and young adults. “The reality is, we do not have a clear definition of mental health,” says Ross. “We all know what physical health means, and things like exercise, eating right, taking care of your body, knowing your family history. Mental health is how you address challenges in your life, and like physical health it takes energy, drive, and focus.” Ross spoke about how to help young people know that they don’t have to hide their anxiety, depression, or thoughts of suicide behind a happy face. “As adults, we learn more about how to express ourselves, we learn about coping mechanisms, and how to manage our mental health. If we expect young people to just do those things without educating them, they will not be successful.”
Click below for an excerpt:
Lamont “Chris” Christian is the U.S. Army Command Sergeant Major (ret.) famously known as “America’s Drill Sergeant,” and for his work in nonprofits serving veterans and first responders. He led a heartfelt session on post-traumatic growth with a surprising premise: “We all know about post-traumatic stress,” Christian explains, “but there has to be something at the other end of that spectrum. Post-traumatic growth – a term coined by doctors Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun in their research – happens when we take our struggles and turn them into strengths. It’s a journey.” Lamont described his own experiences with tragic loss and recovery after his daughter’s suicide in an emotional presentation relatable to all too many military families, and shared his thoughts on the work it takes to get through dark times, and how to find hope.
Watch an excerpt: