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From Awareness to Change

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For 10 years, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has been hosting National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day (Awareness Day). The event has reached thousands with its message that behavioral health is essential to health and overall healthy development. Awareness Day will be celebrated on May 7 this year. The national event, in Washington, D.C., will be complemented by about 1,100 events held locally throughout the country. I would like to tell you about how the message of Awareness Day changed the life of one young man.

Corrie Edwards, M.P.A., CEO and president of the Mid-Plains Center for Behavioral Healthcare Services in Nebraska, attended last year's national event in Washington, D.C. During the event, Corrie heard a young adult with a behavioral health need talk about the value and challenges of employment. That story immediately made her think of her husband, the owner of a convenience store, who was about the fire a young man he employed. The young man, her husband said, was not getting anything done at work.

"After hearing the young adults at Awareness Day, I thought my husband should explore what was going on," with his employee, Corrie told us later.

Her husband talked to the young man and found that he had recently stopped taking his prescribed medication, making it difficult for him to focus. Corrie's husband purchased markers and paper, making a large color-coded chart to help the young man track the tasks he needed to do during his shift in manageable, 15-minute increments.

Further discussion led to a referral for the boy to get more support from behavioral health professionals. As Corrie said, "the only cost was an hour to talk things through, and a few office supplies." If not for Awareness Day, this story might have turned out differently.

Over the last 10 years, we have managed to raise awareness of the importance of behavioral health in children, youth, and young adults. In the future, we will see increased discussions about behavioral health happening beyond just those of us who are champions of it. Behavioral health discussions are taking place at schools, in businesses and at home. And, we hope the discussion broadens to become about whole health. Health cannot be neatly divided between mental and physical health, because people are just not made that way. Physical symptoms can have their root in mental and substance use disorders, and vice versa.

On May 7 we will continue to raise awareness and educate. And, we believe this will be a catalyst for changing hearts and minds.

You can help raise awareness by attending an event in your area, or by watching the live stream of the national event. Find out about both at