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Conversation Starters: Getting Started With an Awareness Day Conversation

This tip sheet offers a guide to the resources available to hold an Awareness Day conversation and answers some common questions.

National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day (Awareness Day) is May 9, this year. Awareness Day is a key strategy of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's (SAMHSA) Caring for Every Child's Mental Health Campaign. The Campaign seeks to raise awareness about the importance of children's mental health so that children and youth get help for mental health disorders with the same urgency as any other health condition and, ultimately, to reduce the impact of mental illness on America's communities. Each year, a national event complements events occurring around the country. This year, the focus is on "Heroes of Hope" with the message that, with the help of caring adults and informed child-serving systems, young people can demonstrate resilience following traumatic experiences. The materials on this Web page offer the resources you will need to hold an Awareness Day conversation in your own community.

Why a conversation?

For Awareness Day 2011, Keys for Networking, Inc., a Topeka, KS-based parent information resource center, held a viewing of the national event Webcast and a related Webcast by the National Institute of Mental Health, and then used that as the catalyst for discussions about children's mental health among members of their community. That event has sparked the idea for more conversations around the country this year.

The first step to changing behavior is awareness. A conversation—a give and take between interested parties—can help raise that awareness and bring people to a common understanding. The Awareness Day conversations are designed to increase adults' knowledge about trauma and resilience among young people, as well as inspire adults to help these young people by becoming Heroes of Hope.

One important component of these conversations is to bring in those who have not previously been exposed to children's mental health issues and to ultimately increase interest in children's behavioral health issues across the country.

What would a conversation look like?

The Facilitator's Guide will walk you through a conversation. You will want your conversation to reflect your own community, so feel free to tailor the conversation to meet the needs of your community Your conversation may incorporate the arts, center around the Webcast of the national event, or take some other form such as using the stories by author Brad Meltzer to help people think what makes someone heroic, but in the end it will have raised awareness not only about trauma and resilience in young people, but about how caring adults can become a Hero of Hope by helping children and youth. Using the Facilitators' Guide, event organizers lead the conversation using data provided by SAMSHA to generate a dialogue around the topic. As part of the conversations, facilitators will seek individual pledges for attendees to become Heroes of Hope (PDF - 201kb).

Whom should I invite?

Those in your community who already are invested in the issues of trauma and resilience and young people's mental health are a good beginning audience, but you also should invite those who may be new to the issue. Members of the media also may be interested in your event and offer a great vehicle for carrying Awareness Day and the Hero of hope message further.

Who you invite depends on the type of conversation you want to have. For example, if you want to use the arts to bring people to the table or to express their emotions, you might use SAMHSA's arts-related resources. For an event centered around educators, the education resources will be useful. Military families would benefit from the military family resources, and if you want to include health care providers in your conversations, use these resources.

What elements should my conversation include?

Using the Facilitator's Guide, you will want to ensure that your conversation includes at least:

  • Data from SAMHSA on trauma and resilience;
  • Lessons learned from attendees at your event who have demonstrated resilience;
  • The definition of a Hero of Hope; and
  • A call for conversation participants to become a Hero of Hope by pledging to be a caring and positive influence on the lives of children and youth.

How can I be a part of other Awareness Day conversations?

You can use social media or a technology such as Skype or GooglePlus to link to other conversations in your area. Click here for more information about using technology in your conversation.

If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs to talk, please call 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).

Return to main page of SAMHSA.gov/Children | For more information, click here to email AwarenessDay2014@vancomm.com