While every day should be Childhood Mental Health Awareness Day, May 3rd will kick off a national campaign to raise awareness of the mental health needs of children and youth.  Data show that at least 1 in 5 children and adolescence have a mental disorder, 1 in 10 have a serious disorder.

We know from research that 90% of people who develop a mental disorder show warning signs during their teen years and that 1 in 5 children in pediatricians’ offices present with an emotional/mental health issue.   Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide for children age 5 and up.  7 – 14% will experience an episode of depression before age 15.

Fortunately we know that by reducing stigma, increasing access to care and helping with early identification, intervention and referral we can make a difference in the lives of children and teens.  The goal is to insure there is no break in the developmental growth curve emotionally, socially, academically.  Through everyone working together collaboratively as a team, every adult, every member of school staffs, every parent, we can create an approach that allows for mental health issues to be identified and treated early.  We pay attention to all the nuances of our children and their development, mental health should not be any different.

Education about various mood disorders, including depression, bi-polar depression, anxiety and panic disorders, psychotic disorders, learning disorders, and behavioral/conduct disorders can help us differentiate between typical and troubled development and behavior.  The goal is to reduce undiagnosed and untreated  depression.  With suicide being the third leading cause of death in adolescents we know we must do better with awareness and intervention.

This year SAMSHA is sponsoring a program, “When I Grow Up”.  It give children age 8 and up an opportunity to raise awareness of mental health needs and give voice to the issues.  For more information to the website:  www.samhas.gov/children/social_media.

Working together we can and will bring fresh, open voices and defeat the stigma which inhibits awareness and treatment.