Miss Teen Universe Massachusetts 2019 joined forces Monday afternoon with the state’s Department of Mental Health on a new program to target second- through fifth-grade students.
Mia De La Rocha, 19, read “Different Kinds of Hurt: Isaac’s Story ” to children at the Boys and Girls Club of Lynn.
“In ‘Isaac’s Story,’ it basically explains how you can go to the hospital if you break an arm or leg or if you don’t feel good mentally,” De La Rocha said. “It teaches kids about self-care, self-love, and how to take care of yourself if you’re not feeling well.”
De La Rocha works with the department to destigmatize conversations about mental health. She has also read to children in Worcester, Boston, Lynn, and Brockton.
Mental wellness in children is important to De La Rocha. She was diagnosed with alopecia, a sudden hair loss condition, when she was 12 years old.
“I had a lot of insecurity. I was bullied and battling my own depression and my own problems and not being able to speak about it,” De La Rocha said. “A lot of the kids ask, ‘How did I get over it?’ and ‘How did I learn how to be happy and embrace my condition?’ It was a struggle to be OK with my condition and my hair and stop hating it and learn to love it and love myself as well.”
The department’s program, Isaac’s Story, aims to make mental health conversations easier for elementary students. The campaign, which started in May, offers parents and teachers a book and animated film they can use to teach children about mental health.
“Isaac’s Story . . . was developed by the Department of Mental Health to decrease the pain of stigma, and to highlight the importance of paying attention to and encouraging all youth to find their strength, rely on friends, family and helpers, and to live a life with joy and meaning,” the department said in a statement.