May 6 Is Children's Mental Health Awareness Day

National Children's Mental Health Awareness DayOn May 6, 2010, communities across the country will observe the fifth annual National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day with special events, youth demonstrations, and social networking campaigns to raise awareness about the importance of mental health and increase understanding of the mental health needs of children and their families. The event is sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

This year's event will focus on mental health problems in early childhood. Symptoms of psychological distress in young children such as aggression or lack of engagement in school often can be dismissed as just a "bad mood" or a passing phase. However, in some cases, these children are in real need of mental health treatment and/or social services. If underlying problems are not addressed, a child's emotional, social, and academic development can be disrupted. In cases where the mental health problems are severe, untreated children may later end up in the juvenile justice system. An OJJDP-supported study on juveniles in detention showed that nearly two-thirds of boys and nearly three-quarters of girls in detention met the diagnostic criteria for one or more psychiatric disorders.

When at-risk children receive help early, they have a better chance of avoiding antisocial behavior and enjoying academic and career success in later life.

Events Planned for Awareness Day

A poster publicizing Children's Mental Health Awareness Day.
A poster publicizing Children's Mental Health Awareness Day.
Included among the planned events will be a SAMHSA-sponsored Early Childhood Forum in Washington, DC, featuring experts in the field and celebrity panelists. In addition, SAMHSA and the American Art Therapy Association will sponsor a Nationwide Art Action event. Using the theme, "My Feelings Are a Work of Art," communities across the country will lead young children in preschool through third grade in painting, drawing, and other art activities aimed at fostering conversations between adults and young children about having and expressing feelings. Information will be provided about the network of support for children's mental health and about tools that families, schools, and communities can use to encourage children's social and emotional development.

Older children also will be active participants in raising awareness about the mental health needs of youth. Throughout the United States, youth groups will be provided with art files to produce customizable signs that feature the headline "When I Grow Up." The signs' format will provide space to write a message or create an image that expresses the aspirations of young children and youth. The back of the signs will feature facts and statistics that indicate how providing services and supports for children's intellectual, social, and emotional development increases the likelihood that children can attain their goals later in life. For more information on the "When I Grow Up" event, click here.

In addition, youth groups, schools, and other organizations will be coordinating events, online social networking campaigns—including Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, blogs, e-mails, and listserv messages—and youth activities tailored to their specific communities and cultures.

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For more information and to become a supporter of National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day, click here.