Child Mental Health Awareness Day is an annual event that shines a spotlight on the behavioral health of children, teens and young adults. Child Mental Health Awareness Day 2017, or simply “Awareness Day 2017,” is on May 4, 2017.
About one in five children currently experience or have experienced a debilitating mental health condition in their lifetime, according to the National Institutes of Medicine (NIH). Mental health is essential to a child’s healthy development. Children rely on good physical and mental health to learn, grow, and lead productive lives.
Child Mental Health Awareness Day Events
National organizations, federal programs, and local communities team up on May 4 for Awareness Day 2017, an event that brings awareness to the mental health needs of children, youth and young adults.
Awareness Day 2017 puts a national focus on the importance of integrating behavioral health and pediatric primary care. The national theme for Child Mental Health Awareness Day 2017 is “Partnering for Help and Hope.”
The world’s most decorated Olympian, Michael Phelps, and eight-time Olympic medalist Allison Schmitt serve as this year’s Honorary Chairpersons of SAMHSA’s National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day 2017.
“Children and young adults often look to athletes as role models for leading healthy lives. By speaking about treatment and recovery, Michael and Allison are helping youth view behavioral health as an important part of their overall health,” said Kana Enomoto, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of SAMHSA in a press release.
“Allison and I are excited to be a part of this national effort. As we travel all over the country, we’re often asked about our training, diets, and routines for staying fit,” said Phelps. “Being involved in Awareness Day and with SAMHSA gives us the chance to emphasize that paying attention to mental health is another important component of growing up healthy.”
By making a clear association between mental health and physical fitness, the Olympians call for an integrated approach to pediatric care. Health care providers can embrace the message by integrating mental health screenings into their practices.
Other national events feature interactive panels that discuss a variety of topics, including the importance of addressing the mental health needs of children, youth and young adults, especially those with co-occurring chronic illnesses and substance use disorders.
Interactive panels give youths and families an opportunity to pose questions to panelists with expertise in child mental health issues. Participating in the conversations gives mental health provides special insight into questions families may have and the most helpful answers mental health experts can provide.
Perhaps one of the more important topics covered in the national event, and one with long-lasting effects, is modeling effective communication practices between providers, youths and families.
Importance of Integrated Care for Child Mental Health
The theme “Partnering for Help and Hope” underscores the importance of providing integrated care that combines mental health services and primary health care.
Primary health care provides essential health care services based on the needs of the population. Primary care settings, such as doctor offices, already provide about half of all mental health care for common psychiatric disorders, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Integrated primary and mental health care is an important model because people with common physical ailments tend to have higher rates of mental health issues. Integrating care gives providers greater opportunity to detect, diagnose, treat and monitor coexisting conditions.
Mental health conditions can negatively affect the overall growth and development of children and youth. Mental health issues can even lead to higher mortality rates when these youngsters reach adulthood, as research shows that adults treated by public health system for mental illness have a life expectancy shortened by up to 25 years when compared with the general population. The development of preventative and early identification strategies, such as integrated care that addresses primary care and behavioral health, is key to disrupting this phenomenon.
Rates of youth and adolescent depression are on the rise. In 2015, about 3 million adolescents aged 12 to 17 suffered a major depressive episode within the previous year. While use of illicit drugs other than marijuana among youth is down, it still ranges from 5.4 percent among 8th graders to 14.3 percent among high school seniors. Because of the risk of poor health and early death among those with substance abuse disorders, the use of alcohol and drugs by youngsters is still a major physical and behavioral health issue.
Shifting to integrated care can help close this early mortality gap by giving providers an opportunity to identify early onset of behavioral health concerns in their young patients. Integrating mental health, substance abuse, and primary care services produces the best outcomes for children and is the most effective approach to caring for youths with multiple health care needs. Integrated care also gives practitioners a chance to share prevention strategies with patients and families.
Some strategies include moving behavioral health care, child welfare and education offices into primary health care settings to expand family access to these services. Bringing primary health care into behavioral health care settings is also effective.
Other strategies focus on distributing information about mental health care to families. Providing pamphlets about mental health in primary pediatric care settings can promote awareness and start a conversation between providers and families. Effective communication helps providers give families accurate information about the importance of mental health to a child’s overall development.
While Awareness Day 2017 helps the public become aware of child mental health for one day annually, the event should help providers remain aware of the mental health needs of children every day of the year. For more resources and information for children’s services providers, click here. Happy Child Mental Health Awareness day to those providers who serve children and families; we hope you share all that you’re doing with the community you serve.
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