National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day 2015

Thursday, May 7 is National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day! This year marks the 10th anniversary for Awareness Day. The theme for 2015 is the Importance of Coordinated Care in Education, Primary Care, and Child Welfare. Coordinated care includes bringing together individuals who work with children to help them achieve positive developmental outcomes that are critical for later school success. These individuals include Head Start teachers, mental health consultants, and staff.

The Office of Head Start (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.

Early Childhood Mental Health in Head Start

Early identification and support for behavioral, emotional, and mental health needs have a positive impact on very young children. Strengthening the well-being of parents and families also leads to improved outcomes for their children. Therefore, an important goal for OHS is supporting mental health and wellness throughout Head Start and Early Head Start programs, including for pregnant women and children ages birth to 5. Local programs offer a wide variety of supports and resources throughout the year to promote resilience among the children and families they serve.

Mental Health Awareness

On Thursday, May 7, OHS and many other federal and national organizations are partnering with Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to celebrate this event. Communities across the country will observe Children's Mental Health Awareness Day. Head Start and Early Head Start programs are encouraged to get involved with local activities or create their own activities to promote mental health awareness

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 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. Facilitating a Referral for Mental Health Services for Children and Their Families Within Early Head Start and Head Start identifies ways to help children and families find the additional supports they need to thrive.

Last Reviewed: May 2012

Last Updated: May 1, 2015