National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day

National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day                           Author: Krista Flack, MS OTR/L

The month of May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, and May 4th is Children's Mental Health Awareness Day.  Children's Mental Health Awareness Day promotes positive youth development, resiliency, and recovery, along with the transformation of mental health service delivery for youth, adolescents, and their families. 

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, mental health in childhood means reaching developmental and emotional milestones, and learning healthy social skills and how to cope when there are problems.  Mentally healthy children have a positive quality of life and can function well at home, in school, and in their communities. 

Mental disorders among children are described as serious changes in the way children typically learn, behave, or handle their emotions, which cause distress and problems getting through the day.  Among the more common mental disorders that can be diagnosed in childhood are attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, and behavior disorders.  Other childhood disorders and concerns that affect how children learn, behave, or handle their emotions can include learning and developmental disabilities, autism, and risk factors like substance use and self-harm. 

Below are some links to resources that can be beneficial to families:

OT’s Role in Children’s Mental Health: Participation in meaningful roles and activities leads to enhancement of emotional well-being, mental health, and social competence. Social competence for children and adolescents includes doing what is necessary to get along with others, making and keeping friends, coping with frustration and anger, solving problems, understanding social etiquette, and following school rules. Recent studies indicate that behavior and social interaction skills are stronger indicators of academic and lifelong success than academic skills.  Occupational therapists evaluate all the components of social competence, and determine whether a child’s motor, social-emotional, and cognitive skills; ability to interpret sensory information; and the influence from home, school, and community environments have an impact on his or her ability to meet the demands of everyday life.

For Military Families: This brief tip sheet outlines the top ten things to keep in mind when working with military families and, for each key concept, includes links to additional information.

SAMHSA’s Building Blocks for a Healthy Future website incorporates the latest evidence-based strategies and programs on early childhood health promotion and substance abuse prevention. These materials support parents, educators, and others working with young children, as part of SAMHSA’s effort to advance the behavioral health of the nation and its mission to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities.

Birth to 5: Watch Me Thrive! is a coordinated federal effort to encourage healthy child development, universal developmental and behavioral screening for children, and support for the families and providers who care for them.

Some apps that can help your family plan for and cope with problems, big and small:

Help Kids Cope: (available on apple and android devices): Help Kids Cope is an app designed to assist parents in talking to their children about different disasters they may experience or have already experienced. This app includes 10 different disaster types with sections in each on how to explain, prepare, respond, and heal from the event their family is concerned with. Each section gives guidance on talking to preschool, school-age, and adolescent children, as well as, includes ways parents can help themselves cope and support their children’s reactions.

Daniel Tiger for Parents: The Daniel Tiger for Parents app empowers parents and caregivers with songs and videos from the hit PBS KIDS series Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.  It features over two dozen Daniel Tiger songs, supporting videos from Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, and helpful hints for parents about the important skills children need to be ready for school and life.

Additional information about Children's Mental Health Awareness Day and mental health concerns can be found here:

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