Secretary Kathleen Sebelius with Demi Lovato
Raising Awareness of Children's Mental Health
During what she calls her "dark period," Demi Lovato received a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. She had anorexia and bulimia. She was also hurting herself. With the right kind of help, Ms. Lovato was able to continue her career as a successful singer, song-writer, and actress—and she has become an advocate for young people who share her history of mental health challenges.
On May 7, 2013, at a press briefing held as part of SAMHSA's National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day activities, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius presented Ms. Lovato with a special recognition award for sharing her story about recovery and breaking the silence that prevents many from reaching out for support during challenging times.
"Every young person faces challenges as they work toward becoming an independent adult, and for those with mental health challenges, it can be even more of a struggle," said Ms. Lovato. "I want those young adults to know that your life has meaning and you can reach out to someone you trust for support and overcome any challenges in your life."
The press briefing was organized to raise awareness about mental health issues for young adults and, in addition to honoring Ms. Lovato, SAMHSA released a Short Report. Other speakers from other federal agencies, along with a young adult with lived experience, also spoke about the risks, challenges, and opportunity to recover when support is in place.
SAMHSA's Children's Mental Health Awareness activities also included more than 1,100 communities and more than 135 public and private organizations sponsored events to raise awareness about the importance of children's mental health and the role of positive mental health in children's healthy development from birth. For the first time, a virtual event was produced that included videos of young adults from across the country telling their stories of resilience as well as content and data addressing healthcare, employment, education, and housing for young adults with mental health challenges. During the launch of the virtual event, there was a Tweetup offering participants an opportunity to comment on and share the ideas discussed in the videos that reached an estimated 27,216,384 people!
This year's theme focused on young adults transitioning into adulthood; a time when young people may face challenging changes in their health benefits and support.
2013 Short Report on Children's Mental Health
SAMHSA's 2013 Short Report, "SAMHSA: Promoting Recovery and Independence for Older Adolescents and Young Adults Who Experience Serious Mental Health Challenges (949 KB, PDF)," reveals the challenges some of the nation's young adults face.
Almost 20 percent of 18- to 25-year-olds had a mental health condition in the past year, and of these more than 1.3 million had a substance use disorder so serious that their ability to function was compromised. Compared with their peers, these young people are more likely to experience homelessness, be arrested, drop out of school, and be unemployed. Unfortunately, these young adults are significantly less likely than other adults to receive mental health services.
When young people do receive the services they need, however, the results can be impressive.
SAMHSA's Children's Mental Health Initiative is just one example. Aimed at improving mental health outcomes from birth to age 21, the initiative funds grantees to put system of care principles into practice by helping adolescents and young adults obtain services and supports, build partnerships with their families and communities, and using evidence-based practices to improve functioning at home, in the classroom, and in other areas of life.
As indicated in the Short Report, the system of care approach works. Thirty-eight percent of participants showed significant improvements in their behavioral and emotional health within the first year. Homelessness among participants age 18 and older dropped by 36 percent. Plus, participants reported greater confidence in their ability to perform such important tasks as preparing meals and securing rental agreements.
Data from other SAMHSA programs for young people, such as the Emerging Adults Initiative, Pregnant and Postpartum Women Program, and almost a dozen programs focused on substance use issues, are equally encouraging.
For SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, J.D., Ms. Lovato's willingness to speak out about her experiences is one type of support for young people with behavioral health challenges. "This type of support, coupled with effective community-based programs can help youth and young adults overcome their challenges and go on to live healthy, fulfilled lives," she said.
Lacy Kendrick Burk, M.S., sees the challenges of young people every day in her work as executive director of Youth M.O.V.E. (Motivating Others Through Voices of Experience) National, a youth-led organization that unites the voices of people with lived experience in the mental health, juvenile justice, education, and child welfare systems and works to improve services and systems to promote positive growth and development. The organization, which has received SAMHSA funding, supports youth empowerment and identifies how youth peer support and policy development can address young people's needs and challenges as they reach adulthood.
It's not uncommon to feel scared and completely alone, Ms. Kendrick Burk told participants at SAMHSA's May 7 press briefing. It also isn't easy to live with mental health challenges while trying to survive, get a job, and find a place to live. Ms. Kendrick Burk knows because she had that lived experience.
"I was involved with the child welfare and the mental health systems, and I continue to receive mental health services today," said Ms. Kendrick Burk, explaining that at 15 she was placed in foster care with five younger siblings. "What the world didn't know was that, on the inside, I was reeling from the effects of trauma." That trauma led to mental health challenges and alcoholism. It also affected her college schoolwork, employment, and relationships.
Because she could count on help from her foster parents, Ms. Kendrick Burk was reassured that she would have support when she needed it, that she could trust and open up to others, and that she wouldn't have to go through her struggles alone. "The connections are what saved my life," she said. "These are the people I can call … and they are there to say, 'I understand. I've been there too.'"
Federal Partners Release Reports about Children
As a part of National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day efforts, two of SAMHSA's federal partners released reports reinforcing the importance of prevention and recovery.
National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day Press Event: SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde and UDC Interim President James Lyons
SAMHSA and the Centers for Medicare and Children's Health Insurance Program Services released a joint informational bulletin called Coverage of Behavioral Health Services for Children, Youth, and Young Adults with Significant Mental Health Conditions. This report is intended to help states design service benefits to meet the needs of this population. Suggested approaches include intensive care coordination through a wrap-around approach, parent and youth peer support services, intensive in-home services, respite services, mobile crisis response and stabilization services, flex funds for goods and services, trauma-informed systems and evidence-based treatments addressing trauma, and other home- and community-based services.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also participated by announcing the first-ever Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report supplement focused on children's mental health. The report describes the prevalence of children's mental health disorders, current federal efforts to address those disorders, and gaps in the nation's ability to fully monitor children's mental disorders. The report reveals that 13 percent to 20 percent of the nation's children experience a mental disorder each year, and their prevalence is increasing. The result can be deadly. In fact, suicide was the second leading cause of death among children aged 12 to 17 in 2010.
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