Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week: Erasing the Stigma and Embracing the Future
Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day is Thursday, May 7, 2020
The second week of May – 3rd thru 9th – is dedicated to Children’s Mental Health Awareness. Bringing attention to the difficult and painful symptoms that younger Americans, who might not have the voice or capacity yet to understand what’s happening, raises the profile of these issues and reduces the stigma associated with mental illnesses.
Because May is Mental Health Awareness Month, it’s appropriate that an entire week is dedicated to children’s mental health.
“Mental health disorders are the most common health issues faced by our nation’s school-aged children,” according to the Child Mind Institute’s report on children’s mental health.
The human brain is not fully developed until around the age of 25, making children and teenagers more vulnerable to mental health conditions born out of trauma, abuse, neglect and addiction-related depression or anxiety. These societal problems, however, are not the only issues facing kids.
What are the Most Common Mental Health Disorders for Children?
A survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 14 percent of children aged 2 to 8 are diagnosed with mental, behavioral or developmental disorders. Some of these mental health conditions include the following:
- Attention deficit hyper-activity disorder (ADHD)
- Behavioral or conduct disorders
- Autism spectrum disorder
- Tourette syndrome
Parents, teachers, healthcare providers and community leaders must learn the skills necessary to identify mental health concerns in children and be able to get them the help they need and deserve. Mental illness is treatable at any age, but early diagnosis and treatment is always the best and most effective approach.
Unfortunately, mental and behavioral problems are misidentified as “kids being kids” or as simple rebellion or problems with authority. This can alienate a child whose suffering from very serious mental pain.
What Can Parents and Teachers Do to Help Children With Mental Health Issues?
The National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health (NFFCMH) suggests tips for adults during the week of awareness. Some of these include:
- Educate yourself and others about mental health
- Talk openly about mental illness
- Avoid using language or words that spread stereotypes and stigma
- Understand that mental illness occurs in every socio-economic demographic
- Express empathy and compassion for children living with mental illness
- Speak out against the criminalization of marginalized children with mental health problems
- Advocate for mental health reform and equality
Promoting Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week
Along with these tips, NFFCMH provides an entire toolkit for community leaders and organizations to help promote Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week. This resource lists activities for adults and children, educational materials and reading lists that can elevate the way people perceive mental illness in children.
“Research shows that half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14,” reports the National Institute of Health.
“Scientists are discovering that changes in the body leading to mental illness may start much earlier, before any symptoms appear. Through the greater understanding of when and how fast specific areas of children’s brain develop, we are learning more about the early stages of a wide of mental illnesses that appear later in life.”
The Child Mind Institute is also running a campaign called “My Younger Self” for the month of May that features actors, athletes, and other notable figures that will share an inspiring video about their own experience of growing up with a mental health issue using the hashtag #MyYoungerSelf. Find out more on their website at childmind.org/myyoungerself/.
Focusing on the health and wellbeing of children is an effective way to change the negative stigma and stereotypes associated with mental health for generations to come. Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week is an opportunity for everyone to help erase the stigma and embrace the future.
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