As resilient as children may be, they can — even at an early age — experience trauma that can have long-term effects on their behavioral health. Research shows that when exposed to traumatic events, even children as young as 18 months can develop serious psychological problems later in childhood and in adulthood. As they grow, these children take with them the effects of traumatic events, and are more likely to experience problems with substance abuse, depression, and stress management as a result.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day began in 2005 as a grassroots initiative designed to demonstrate that children with mental health needs can thrive in their communities. Over the past six years, Awareness Day’s grassroots activities have continued to flourish; in 2010, nearly 11,000 children participated in Awareness Day events nationwide and the number of national organizations collaborating on this public awareness effort has risen from four in 2005 to 88 in 2011.
A national Awareness Day event complements the widespread work going on locally and is now part of SAMHSA’s overall strategy to raise awareness that positive mental health is essential to a child’s healthy development from birth. In 2011, the national theme is Building Resilience for Young Children Dealing with Trauma, which will be featured as part of an event in Washington, DC, on Awareness Day, Tuesday, May 3. The event will include an art exhibit managed by the American Art Therapy Association and a program paying tribute to youth who have demonstrated resilience despite experiencing trauma at a young age.
Communities around the country also will be holding Awareness Day events. SAMHSA also will release its annual short report on data demonstrating the effectiveness of Systems of Care and National Child Traumatic Stress Network grantees in treating children with trauma.