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Spotlight on Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day

National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day is an annual event that shines a spotlight on the behavioral health of children, teens and young adults. This year, Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day, or “Awareness Day 2019,” is being kicked off on May 6, while the nationally observed day is May 9.

The 2019 theme is an important one: “Suicide Prevention: Strategies That Work,” which places a national focus on the impact suicide has on children, youth, young adults, families and communities.

In the U.S., suicide is the third-leading cause of death for youth between 10 and 24, with approximately 4,600 lives lost annually, and the suicide rate for children between ages 5 and 12 is increasing. In a short span of six years between 1999 and 2015, as many as 1,309 children in this age bracket took their own lives.

Awareness Day 2019 Events

National organizations, federal programs, and local communities team up for Awareness Day 2019, and on May 6, SAMHSA will host an event to kick off the activities that will take place throughout the nation on May 9.

The event will be held at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, DC. Tied to the 2019 theme of “Suicide Prevention: Strategies That Work,” SAMHSA will present evidence-based strategies to connect those in need to information, services and supports that can save lives.

Sharing personal accounts of experiences with suicide is an important step in providing insight and support to others going through the same thing. At SAMHSA’s May 6 event, suicide experts, national mental health leaders, and families and youth will do just that. They will share their experiences using evidence-based practices and the role they played in saving children’s lives and helping them recover.

The TED Talk-style discussions at the event will provide an opportunity to share information on resources and latest evidence-based best practices for suicide prevention with state agency personnel, primary and mental health care providers, child-serving professionals, and families, youth and young adults across the U.S.

Additionally, SAMHSA aims to:

  • Encourage children’s services providers to work in partnership with family and youth leaders to better meet the needs of children, youth, and young adults with severe emotional disturbance
  • Educate the public about the importance of looking for mental health services when they’re needed

The Importance of Seeking and Receiving the Right Support for Suicide Prevention

The theme “Suicide Prevention: Strategies That Work” underscores the importance of seeking mental health services when they’re needed. In turn, this requires mental health and children’s services providers to have the skills not only to identify the warning signs of suicidality, but also to confidently assess and screen for the risk of suicide to appropriately support those who do seek services.

But it’s the seeking of services that may pose a greater hurdle. In an article published by the American Psychological Association, although 90% of young children who commit suicide have a mental health disorder (usually major depression), the article indicates that many parents and teachers ignore the warning signs, including talking about or threatening suicide, because they believe kids don’t understand what suicide really is and therefore wouldn’t try it.

But, according to a 2018 article published by California Health Report, kids do understand the concept of suicide. They further state that children begin to understand death at around ages 5 to 7. It is the irreversibility of death that they don’t fully grasp until around age 11. It can be assumed, then, that the window of time between ages 7 and 11 can pose a higher risk when it comes to youth depression and suicidality, and parents, teachers, and mental health and children’s services providers should take greater caution in paying attention to the warning signs.


12 Warning Signs of Suicide

  • Feeling like a burden
  • Being isolated
  • Increased anxiety
  • Feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Increased substance use
  • Looking for a way to access lethal means
  • Increased anger or rage
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Expressing hopelessness
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Talking to or posting about wanting to die
  • Making plans for suicide

Warning Signs in Children & Teens

  • Changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Frequent or pervasive sadness
  • Withdrawal from friends, family and regular activities
  • Frequent complaints about physical symptoms often related to emotions, such as stomach aches, headaches, fatigue, etc.
  • Decline in the quality of schoolwork
  • Preoccupation with death and dying
  • Giving away cherished possessions
  • Stop talking about the future


While Awareness Day 2019 highlights and brings awareness to children’s mental health for one day of the year, the event should help providers remain aware of the mental health needs of children every day, and serve as a platform for sharing helpful resources and education so they can continue improving the lives of children. Thank you to those providers who serve children and families. We hope you share all that you’re doing to make your communities better on Awareness Day 2019 and beyond.

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