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Family Guidance Blog

National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day – Peer Support is Crucial

Mental Health 15On May 6, 2014 the national launch of National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day: Inspiring Resiliency, Creating Hope will take place in our country’s capitol. The event is expected to draw national attention to the many local events which will be held across the country on May 8, 2014.

At the Washington, D.C. event, the director of Health and Human Services will be joined by the DeBlasio family. Bill DeBlasio is the current mayor of New York City, but it is actually his 19 year old daughter Chiara who will be the official guest of honor. Chiara has spoken publicly about her own struggles against substance abuse and depression. Ms. DeBlasio will be recognized as an example
of hope for other young people dealing with mental health concerns.

One of the highlights of the event will be discussion of the importance of peer support in the face of mental health challenges. Young people with a mental health condition sometimes face obstacles in key areas of life such as housing, education, employment and justice. Having the help of another person of similar age can be encouraging and empowering for the person trying to overcome these hurdles. Chiara DeBlasio will be joined by four additional young people who have exemplified resiliency or who have been able to be a support person for someone else.

The national launch is just the beginning however. Real change will come as young people in communities all across the country participate in local events and discover how they can successfully manage challenges or offer help to others. Join us at Family Guidance in recognizing Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day. Family Guidance offers assistance every day to those confronted with the realities of mental illness. They also offer help to friends and family members so that they better understand what positive support should look like.

Mental Illness is Common but Hard to Identify

ADHD 7There are many forms of mental illness that can occur during the childhood years. Conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorders, anxiety disorders, mood disorders, eating disorders, and substance abuse are fairly common among youth but may initially be hard to identify. Young children especially may have difficulty putting their feelings into words and may only be able to express that they “don’t feel good”.

There are other factors which may interfere with a diagnosis of mental illness. Symptoms of mental health concerns may be intertwined. For instance, a child could be affected by both depression and an eating disorder or anxiety and ADHD. Since children are still in a crucial stage of development, it can be easy to chalk symptoms up to growing pains or simply going through a phase.

So how do you as a parent know when to be concerned? Speak to your child’s pediatrician if you notice any of the following:

  • An abrupt change in sleeping or eating habits.
  • A sudden loss of interest in school or persistent poor grades.
  • Change of personality. For instance, a once happy, upbeat child becomes emotional, distant or exceptionally nervous.
  • Pattern of substance use.
  • Difficulty interacting with others at home or at school.

The bottom line is, if you are a parent concerned about mental illness, listen to your instincts. It’s better to have something checked out than to ignore a potential problem that could evolve and worsen over time. Additionally, early identification and attention to mental health conditions typically yield the best treatment options.

If your pediatrician suspects a mental health concern may be present, he or she can help connect you to a mental health professional who is better equipped to provide the care and services your child needs and deserves. School counselors and other families living with mental illness are also excellent sources of support.

Family Guidance Center is committed to walking families through the process of coping with mental illness. Last year alone, Family Guidance Center was able to provide assistance to nearly 1,000 children across 50 schools. Mental health is a manageable disease; contact Family Guidance Center to learn more about programs geared toward youth.