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SAMHSA News - May/June 2007, Volume 15, Number 3

Focusing on Children's Mental Health

faces of four children and logo of National Children's Mental Health Awareness DayThe second annual National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day focused on increasing services that allow children with mental health challenges to thrive at home, at school, and in the community.

SAMHSA’s briefing, held on Capitol Hill on May 8, coincided with National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week and Mental Health Month (see SAMHSA News online, May/June 2006).

“Providing access to community-based services for children and youth with serious mental health needs is necessary for their success,” said SAMHSA Administrator Terry L. Cline, Ph.D.

A coalition of national organizations joined SAMHSA to call for access to mental health services for children and youth with serious mental health needs and their families.

This year’s briefing presented members of Congress with the latest SAMHSA information and research about issues that affect children and youth with mental health care needs. Speakers emphasized the need for children to have access to mental health care services and called for parity in service delivery.

The event emphasized the positive impact that effective school- and community-based mental health services have on children and youth as well as their families.

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photo of Howie Handel (left) with A. Kathryn Power (right) holding SAMHSA plaque between them
At the Capitol Hill briefing, A. Kathryn Power, Director of SAMHSA’s Center for Mental Health Services, thanks Howie Mandel, honorary consumer spokesperson. Mr. Mandel has spent years successfully managing obsessive-compulsive disorder. He is a well-known comedian and host of television’s “Deal or No Deal.”

Speaking Out

Several honorary spokespersons shared their personal experiences and perspectives on the need for improvements to mental health services for children.

Consumers. Howie Mandel, well-known comedian and host of NBC’s “Deal or No Deal,” shared his story of managing obsessive-compulsive disorder and mysophobia (fear of germs). He spoke of the need for parity in mental health care and the barriers of stigma that face many youth and families.

photo of Scott Harrison (right), Honorary family spokesperson, and his mother, Deborah Marriott Harrison (left)

Scott Harrison, an honorary family spokesperson, talked about his family's efforts to make mental health a priority. His mother, Deborah Marriott Harrison, is at left.

“We take our kids to a dentist a couple times a year to get a cleaning, to get a checkup, to go get x-rays,” said Mr. Mandel. “We want care to be preventative, but mental health is not part of the school curriculum. It would be great if that was in place.”

Families. Deborah Marriott Harrison, an advocate for youth with mental illnesses and their families, shared her battle to secure services for her twin sons living with bipolar disorder. “I felt like I was drowning,” Ms. Harrison said of her journey to get help for her sons. “Back then, I had to learn on my own what to do. But things are changing now.”

Her son, Scott Harrison, shared his experience as a student with bipolar disorder. “Nothing could have prepared me for what I underwent. I’m speaking out so students now will have it better.”

photo of Marvin Alexander speaking at National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day
Marvin Alexander, age 20, explains how he met the challenges of bipolar disorder and stigma to earn a college degree.

Youth. Marvin Alexander, a 20-year-old licensed social worker from Arkansas, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, and oppositional defiant disorder as a child. He discussed the challenges of navigating the juvenile justice system as a young person.

Mr. Alexander also talked about stigma, explaining that he didn’t want to take his medication in school when he was first diagnosed. Now heading into a graduate program in social work, he said, “I see the benefit of treatment.”

SAMHSA's Gary Blau, Ph.D., standing at podium at National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day

SAMHSA's Gary Blau, Ph.D., Branch Chief of the Child, Adolescent and Family Branch at CMHS.

“Mental health is essential to overall health, and that’s especially true for children,” explained Gary Blau, Ph.D., Branch Chief of the Child, Adolescent and Family Branch at SAMHSA’s Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS). “Everyone knows someone with mental health challenges. We all need to know that mental health issues are treatable.”

For more information about this event and coalition members, visit www.systemsofcare.samhsa.
. For details on child and adolescent mental health, visit mentalhealth.
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Inside This Issue
Expanding HIV Assistance:
Outreach, Testing for
At-Risk Individuals
Part 1
Part 2
Resources on HIV/AIDS
HIV/AIDS Consumer Guide

From the Administrator: On Capitol Hill

Grants: Manual Clarifies Application Process

Children's Mental Health

Virginia Tech Tragedy: Coping with Trauma

Psychological First Aid

Veterans, Families: New Resources

Around the World Treatnet: Improving Treatment Around the Globe

Expanding Treatment in Central America

Treating Alcohol Dependence: Advisory

Recovery Month: Toolkit, PSAs Help Planning Efforts

PRISM Awards in Spotlight

Depression: Reports Offer Statistics

Mental Health Report Available

TAP 21A: Competencies for Clinical Supervisors

HBCU Conference Highlights Workforce

Homelessness Web Site Launched

STD Rates: Alcohol, Drug Use Linked

Staff in the News:
Dr. Kenneth S. Thompson


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SAMHSA News - May/June 2007, Volume 15, Number 3