Today is Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day. Mental Health Caucus Co-Chairs Grace Napolitano (D-CA) and Tim Murphy (R-PA) hosted the National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day Legislative Briefing, which included presentations from Pamela Hyde, Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA); Anthony Mannarino, Allegheny General Hospital; Christine Marsh, Family and Children’s Services; and Jordan Geddes, Youth Advocate at the Maryland Coalition for Children’s Mental Health. Napolitano and Murphy spoke to the importance of advocacy on behalf of individuals, families, and service providers, and its role in influencing members of Congress, who are responsible for ensuring that programs that serve children with mental health disorders are protected. Both members encouraged individuals to get acquainted with their respective Members of Congress to share the work that they do and the lives that they touch.
Hyde talked about the importance the work that SAMHSA is doing as a federal partner and highlighted National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day as 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 SAMHSA. The purpose of the campaign is 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. Tonight SAMHSA is paying tribute to this year’s Heroes of Hope and the many children and youth who have demonstrated resilience after traumatic experiences at an event at George Washington University.
Marsh and Mannarino described some of the work taking place in the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) to raise the standard of care and improve access to services for traumatized children, their families, and communities. The NCTSN was authorized by Congress over a decade ago as part of the Children’s Health Act of 2000. The Network has centers across the country that are providing trainings and services to agencies and families in need. Although the trauma-informed work that the NCTSN provides has yielded positive outcomes, the only youth on the panel, Jordan Geddes, shared her story of struggling with mental health issues in the absence of the very programs highlighted by the previous panelists. In fact she shared her very personal story of overcoming depression and the struggle to access mental health services in her community. Despite being in and out of treatment since middle school, Geddes is now a college student in Maryland.
Aside from the work that SAMHSA and other national groups are doing in DC today, more than 1,100 communities have planned events, youth demonstrations, and social networking campaigns to raise awareness about the importance of children’s mental health.