In 1949, the National Mental Health Association established May as mental health month. Just over 50 years after the inception of mental health month; in 2004, the National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health declared the first full week of May as Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week nationally. May 6th through 12th, 2012 is Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week. The goal of this nationally recognized event is to increase public awareness and educate communities to expand the understanding of children’s mental health needs and their resulting impact on families.
According to the National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health, “One in five young people have one or more mental, emotional, or behavioral challenges. One in ten youth have challenges that are severe enough to impair how they function at home, school, or in the community.” Despite the high rates of mental illness in children, 4 out of 5 children ages 6 to 17 who experience symptoms do not receive any assistance. Often those who do not receive needed mental health services are minority children; specifically, 88% of Latino children have unmet mental health care needs. In addition, Latino children are less likely than others to be identified by a primary care physician as having a mental disorder.
So what can be done?
- Work to reduce stigma!
- Create awareness surrounding positive mental health practices and supports.
- Contact local, state, and federal legislators to request funding for early intervention and prevention programs.
- Encourage culturally and linguistically competent supports and services.
NIDRR has a history of funding mental health research including research related to children and young adults with mental health conditions:
- Rehabilitation Research and Training Center for Pathways to Positive Futures: Supporting Successful Transition for Youth and Young Adults with Serious Mental Health Conditions
- Rehabilitation Research and Training Center for Children’s Mental Health
- Improving Services to Seriously Emotionally Disturbed Children
- University of Illinois at Chicago National Research and Training Center on Psychiatric Disability
- Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Participation and Community Living of Individuals with Psychiatric Disabilities
More information on Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week resources, activities, etc. is available at the National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health website.