This year, National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day (Awareness Day) is Wednesday, May 9.
Awareness Day is a key strategy of the Caring for Every Child's Mental Health Campaign, which is part of the Public Awareness and Support Strategic Initiative by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The effort seeks to raise awareness about the importance of children's mental health and that positive mental health is essential to a child's healthy development from birth.
In 2011, the national theme focused on building resilience in young children dealing with trauma. More than 100 national organizations and 1,100 communities across the country held their own Awareness Day events, focusing either on the national theme or adapting the theme to the populations they serve.
The national event that will be held in Washington, DC, on May 9 will carry the message that, with the help of caring adults and informed child-serving systems, young people can demonstrate resilience following traumatic experiences.
The national focus will look at the needs of children and youth ages birth to 18 in systems including juvenile justice, child welfare, and education who have experienced trauma.
In addition, SAMHSA and the Awareness Day collaborating organizations will continue to examine strategies to assist military families in enhancing their resilience.
YCS is a primary resource provider of mental health services in the Ocoee region. As a licensed mental health facility, YCS is unique in that it is the only such facility in eastern Tennessee that targets children and youth. Since its inception in 2008, YCS has experienced an increase in the number of families served as well as the total number of sessions conducted each year.
Vining reported more than 4,000 counseling sessions were scheduled in 2011.
“We are seeing an increase in the sessions conducted this year by about 10 percent over last year,” Vining said.
YCS is made possible through a United Way Hospital Grant.
The first step to changing behavior is awareness, according to Vining.
Childhood exposure to traumatic events is a major public health problem in the United States. Research has shown that exposure to traumatic events early in life can have many negative effects throughout childhood and adolescence, and into adulthood.
Children who suffer from child traumatic stress are those who have been exposed to one or more traumas over the course of their lives and develop reactions that persist and affect their daily lives after the traumatic events have ended.
Traumatic events can include witnessing or experiencing physical or sexual abuse, violence in families and communities, loss of a loved one, refugee and war experiences, living with a family member whose caregiving ability is impaired, and having a life-threatening injury or illness.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 60 percent of American adults say that they endured abuse or other difficult family circumstances during childhood.
Awareness Day helps communities realize the impact of traumatic events.
Dr. Vining noted the traumatic events of April 2011 in Bradley County.
“We are still seeing fallout from the tornados of a year ago. Those storms set off mental health issues for many of our children and youth,” he said.
One resource used at YCS to raise awareness and offer help is Vining’s book, “When Home Is Where the Hurt Is,” which addresses 18 experiences that tend to leave people traumatized.
YCS works with individuals and families to strengthen resolve and resilience. Resilience is the ability to adapt well over time to life-changing situations and stressful conditions. While many things contribute to resilience, studies show that caring and supportive relationships can help enhance resilience. Factors associated with resilience include, but are not limited to:
n The ability to make and implement realistic plans;
n A positive and confident outlook; and
n The ability to communicate and solve problems.
Research has shown that caregivers can buffer the impact of trauma and promote better outcomes for children, even under stressful times, when the following Strengthening Families Protective Factors are present:
n Parental resilience
n Social connections
n Knowledge of parenting and child development
n Concrete support in times of need
n Social and emotional competence of children
SAMHSA's “Caring for Every Child's Mental Health” public awareness effort was created in 1994 with the mission to increase awareness around children's mental health. The “Caring for Every Child's Mental Health” team works to support SAMHSA-funded sites through the strategic use of social marketing and communications strategies. The overarching purpose of the team is to stimulate support for a comprehensive system of care approach to children's mental health services.
YCS offers professional counseling services to children, youth, and adults. Appointments can be made by calling 423-476-1933.