Focusing on Children's Mental Health
The 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
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,
“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,
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
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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|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
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
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
|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., 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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