National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day 2016

The Office of Head Start (OHS) is one of many federal partners supporting the celebration of the 11th Annual National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day (Awareness Day) on Thursday, May 5, 2016! Awareness Day shines a national spotlight on the importance of caring for every child's mental health. It also reinforces the idea that mental health is essential to a child's healthy development. The theme for 2016 is “Finding Help, Finding Hope.” The goal is to explore how communities can work together to increase access to behavioral health services and supports for children, youths, and young adults who experience mental or substance use disorders and their families.

OHS is dedicated to ensuring high-quality services to both children and families. For children birth to 5, mental health is the developing capacity to: experience, regulate, and express emotion; form close, secure relationships; and explore the environment and learn. This all occurs within the cultural context of family and community. Early childhood mental health is synonymous with general health and well-being, as well as healthy social, emotional, and behavioral development. It is affected by a child's biological predisposition and the continuity of nurturing relationships. The environment also plays a part, including access to adequate food, clothing, and safe shelter.

The national Awareness Day event will feature a highly interactive talk show-style format. Members of the in-person audience, and those watching the live webcast across the country, will have the chance to ask questions and share insights via social media, email, and other digital platforms. Organizations can connect to the national event by hosting Awareness Day Live!events in their local area.

More than 1,100 communities across the country and more than 150 federal programs and national organizations observe Awareness Day through many different activities. Connect with your colleagues, parents, and community partners to design your Awareness Day celebration. Use the event checklist to organize your planning efforts, and let SAMHSA know of your participation and interests by submitting your pledge form. Ideas include hosting community events or picnics, social networking campaigns, public service announcement contests, children's art shows, or delivering cookies with mental health and resilience messages to legislators. Once you have pledged, you may also work with your mayor, governor, or other officials to proclaim May 5, 2016 National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day in your state or community.

Families face daily challenges that cause stress and depression. Engaging with and supporting parents and families that are struggling with adversity can take a toll on staff. Family Connections: A Systemic Mental Health Consultation and Professional Development Model provides resources to strengthen the capacity and care of Head Start and Early Head Start staff when dealing with parental depression and related adversities. It is important to support staff in managing their own stress [PDF, 269KB].

Mental health consultants play a pivotal role in early identification and support for the behavioral, emotional, and mental health needs of children and families. Finding a Mental Health Provider for Children and Families in Your Early Head Start or Head Start Program provides guidance on identifying providers and ideas for overcoming access barriers. Discover ways to help children and families find the additional supports they need to thrive with Facilitating a Referral for Mental Health Services for Children and Their Families Within Early Head Start and Head Start. The new Infant/Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation (I/ECMHC) learning module highlights the role of the I/ECMHC consultant. The interactive module is divided into lessons with realistic scenarios and short video clips designed to provide extensive support around I/ECMHC.

Last Reviewed: April 2016

Last Updated: May 2, 2016