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Children are often thought of as being too young for mental illness. However, depression, anxiety, and many other disorders can affect children of all ages. In fact, 50% of all lifetime cases of mental illness begins by age 14. Even more serious, suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for youth ages 10-24.

To call attention to these common but treatable mental health conditions, National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day will take place on May 5th. Screening for Mental Health is proud to be partnering with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to raise awareness about the importance of the emotional wellbeing and mental health among children for the 11th annual event. This year’s theme, “Finding Help, Finding Hope,” focuses on how to increase access to behavioral services for adolescents who experience mental health and substance use disorders.

For anyone struggling with mental illness, access to treatment is imperative. This is also true for youth. Unfortunately, the average time between onset of symptoms and treatment is 8-10 years. Like any illness, the earlier a mental illness is diagnosed and treated, the better the chances will be for recovery. For example, 80 percent of those who struggle with depression will recover with proper treatment. With help, there is hope.

Parents are the most important connection between their children and treatment. The more parents talk about mental illness, the better prepared children will be to handle these common concerns. Parents, teachers, and other trusted adults should be on the lookout for symptoms. When concerns do arise, adults should actively seek help for their child through a school counselor, mental health provider, or doctor. Signs to look for include:

  • Feeling sad or withdrawn for more than two weeks
  • Having severe mood swings that cause relationship problems
  • Exhibiting intense worries or fears that get in the way of daily activities
  • Experiencing sudden overwhelming fear for no reason, sometimes with a racing heart or fast breathing
  • Experiencing extreme difficulty controlling behavior, putting himself or herself in physical danger or causing problems in school

To help further the conversation and increase awareness in Massachusetts, Screening for Mental Health, in partnership with Boston Public Schools and SAMHSA, will be hosting an event to discuss children’s mental health. A variety of local community champions will share their involvement in children’s mental health and compare the efforts in Massachusetts to others across the country.

The national event will take place on May 5th at George Washington University in Washington, DC. Panels comprised of youth, educators, law enforcement officials, and behavioral health professionals will highlight strategies for overcoming barriers to mental health care and discuss how communities can improve access to services.

Attendance at these events is not required to participate in Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day. The national event will be broadcast live and a discussion on social media will be held using the hashtag, #HeroesofHope. Use both of these opportunities to facilitate a conversation about children’s mental health in your community. For more information and resources, check out our promotional toolkit.

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