Every month seems to have multiple designations that commemorate a group, topic or issue. March, for example, was Irish-American Heritage Month and National Celery Month. April raised math awareness, poetry, and “national safe digging.”
You don’t normally see reporters writing stories pegged to these designations because, really, what do they mean anyhow? Why do we need a National Safe Digging Month? Does celery really demand all of March rather than, say, a week?
But every once in a while, there’s a month — or a day — that is a worthy topic on its own, and the designation simply serves as a reminder of that.
Thursday is National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day. Montgomery County, like more than 1,100 communities nationwide, is using the day to publicize “the importance of positive mental health from birth.”
The national event is sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and this year will focus on young people who have recovered from a trauma.
Studies have estimated that at least five- to 10-percent of young people between 14 and 18, have serious emotional or behavioral disorders. More than one in four have experienced a traumatic event — bullying, child abuse, severe poverty — by the time they reach 16.
The problems show up everywhere — in homes, schools and even in court.
Montgomery County Judge R. Stephen Barrett, who presides over juvenile cases, said at a recent gathering of professionals who work with children that the night before, “a kid threatened to kill himself in the courtroom.” The sheriff and others were there, Barrett said, and kept the child from harm.
To raise awareness about the importance of good mental health, the Montgomery County Department of Behavioral Health and Development Disabilities and partners will ask students to sign “a ‘Hero of Hope’ pledge to honor their friends that may be struggling with a mental illness.”
Bracelets with that message of hope and, more importantly, the phone number of the county’s Children’s Crisis Support program hotline, at 1.888-435-7414. The phone line is staffed 24 hours a day, every day of the week.
On June 2 from 10 a.m. to noon, the county behavioral health department will hold its annual Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day at the Elmwood Park Zoo. Representatives from more than 25 agencies that support children will be there, plus there will be a raffle, food and other activities. The first 300 people will get free admission to the zoo.