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Jefferson County-Based Organizations Join More than 1,000 National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day Celebrations Across the Country

Birmingham, Alabama — The first week in May, 2013, the Mental Health Goal Group is joining more than 1,000 communities across the country in celebrating the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's (SAMHSA) National Children's Mental Health Awareness Week to raise awareness about the importance of positive mental health from birth. This year, the Awareness Day national event focuses on young children from birth to 8 years old by emphasizing the need to build resilience in young children dealing with trauma.

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.

Stress in today’s families touches all of us. We know that the mental health challenges that children face, even at an early age, impact their learning, their social interactions, and the overall well-being of their families.

• The American Psychological Association’s Stress in America Survey (2010) found that children as young as eight years old are reporting that they experience physical and emotional consequences often associated with stress.
• Parents underestimate how much stress their children experience and the impact of their own stress on their children.
• It is estimated that between 9% and 14% of children from birth to 5 years of age experience social and emotional problems that negatively affect their functioning and development.
• Young children who receive effective, age-appropriate services and supports are more likely to complete high school, have fewer contacts with law enforcement, and improve their ability to live independently.
• In the 2001 National Action Agenda for Children's Mental Health, the U.S. Surgeon General warned that the nation was facing a public crisis in caring for children and adolescents with behavioral, psychological, and emotional problems. The report noted that 1 in 10 young people suffer from mental illness severe enough to cause some level of impairment. Yet fewer than 20 percent of these children received needed treatment in any given year.

For the past two years, the Mental Health Goal Group has been encouraging individuals and mental health-related organizations to promote services to young children and youth with mental health issues in Jefferson County. Research has shown that when children as young as 18 months are exposed to traumatic events, they can develop serious psychological problems later in life and have a greater risk for experiencing problems with substance abuse, depression, and physical health. Integrating social-emotional and resilience-building skills into every environment can have a positive impact on a child's healthy development.

To celebrate Awareness Day locally, on May 4, the Mental Health Goal Group will participate in the Health & Wellness Awareness Day at 16th Street Baptist Church and Pop-Up Avondale. These events focus attention on the importance of providing comprehensive, community-based health to all. Other organizations around the county are being encouraged to promote this Awareness Day in their own facilities.

“Awareness Day is an opportunity for us to join with over a thousand communities across the country in celebrating the positive impact that we can have on the lives of young people when we are able to integrate positive mental health into every environment," said Dr. Linda Alverson-Eiland. "When we focus on building resilience and social-emotional skills in young children from birth, especially if they have experienced a traumatic event, we can help young children, youth, and their families thrive."

We ask your support for this Day and for the events that will be occurring around that time. This support can be accomplished through hosting your own events as well as posting information about this Day on your website, your facebook page, and in your newsletter. You can also share at link to https://www.facebook.com/childmentalhealthbham, Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day Birmingham. Event Materials are available from the SAMHSA website at http://www.samhsa.gov/children/event_materials.asp.

If you want more information on how you can be involved, please contact me at mentalhealthbham@gmail.com.
CONTACT: Linda Alverson-Eiland, Ph.D mentalhealthbham@gmail.com

Published: May 02, 2013 at 2:00 PM
Updated: May 03, 2013 at 10:32 AM

By Alabama Psychological Association

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