By Mike Fitzpatrick, NAMI Executive Director
NAMI joined with others this week on Tuesday, May 3, to celebrate National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day. This day is dedicated to all the young lives that have been impacted by mental, emotional or behavioral health challenges. It provides the perfect opportunity to come together to rally behind these youth and to advocate for a full array of effective services and supports that give hope to our youngest citizens.
Mental health issues impact large numbers of youth but fortunately, with early identification and intervention, they are treatable. We all play a role in ensuring this happens-whether by providing information, support, guidance or simply, hope.National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day is an important reminder of what we can do to improve the health and well-being of the next generation. This year, numerous events and activities were undertaken to raise awareness, including:
- A briefing on Capitol Hill that focused on the importance of early identification and intervention for children living with mental illness. The briefing also focused on two pieces of federal legislation that provide support to schools to better address the needs of students living with mental illness- theMental Health in Schools Act (HR 751), which would provide federal funding to increase and improve school-based mental health services and supports and the Achievement Through Prevention Act (S. 541), which would increase the implementation of school-wide positive behavioral interventions and supports to improve student academic achievement.
- NAMI state organizations and local affiliates around the country took advantage of the tools NAMI developed for National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day by securing proclamations from state and local officials to honor the day and by engaging in a variety of other local activities to help educate and inform the public about children's mental health.
- The National Institute of Mental Health joined in the celebration with a Research Panel Videocast and with a series of resources on their website related to children.
- The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration organized a touching evening event that opened with a youth art exhibit at the Shakespeare Theatre and continued with a tribute to youth who have experienced trauma in their childhood. The event focused on building resilience in young children dealing with trauma.
Although we honor Children's Mental Health Awareness Day the first week of May every year, the resources NAMI developed can be used any day of the year to educate and inform the public about children's mental health.
Research shows that 50 percent of mental illness begins by age 14 and 75 percent by age 24, so we now know that mental illness strikes early in life. The more we raise awareness about mental health, the more that we can eradicate stigma and link children living with mental illness with effective services and supports. The more that we can do this, the more we can change the course of young lives for the better.