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SAMHSA Celebrates National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day By Recognizing Youth for Their Resiliency
Date:5/8/2008

Keke Palmer, Marc Indelicato, Herschel Walker and 35 non-profit and professional organizations joined SAMHSA to increase awareness of children's mental health

WASHINGTON, May 8 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Seven youth from the Washington Metropolitan area were recognized today by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) during National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day at the Lincoln Theatre in Washington, D.C., for their ability to express their resilience through the performing arts.

The awards were part of a talent showcase co-hosted by Akeelah and the Bee's Keke Palmer and Ugly Betty's Marc Indelicato, featuring performances by youth from the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in the District and Manassas Park High School in Virginia. An award-winning group of high school seniors in San Francisco, Team Liquid from Phillip and Sala Burton Academic High School, also performed at the event via live satellite.

At the same time, SAMHSA launched Dare to Dream America -- a new initiative encouraging youth to promote positive mental health among their peers. It also released a report which shows that comprehensive, community-based programs can help high school youth with mental health needs succeed at home, in school and in the community.

The performances illustrated the power of the performing arts for helping youth who have experienced mental health challenges to thrive at home, in school and in the community. Performing youth sang, danced, or recited spoken word performances, communicating their personal stories about resiliency.

"National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day creates an opportunity to highlight the amazing success stories of children with mental health needs and their families and to demonstrate the positive difference comprehensive community-based programs can make," said SAMHSA Administrator Terry Cline, Ph.D.

The report shows that youth with behavioral and emotional problems who participated in system of care services funded by SAMHSA had improved school attendance and academic performance and fewer disciplinary problems. The report, Helping Youth Thrive in the Community, was released as part of the "STILL I RISE: A Celebration of Resiliency through the Performing Arts" event.

Participating youth showed improved behavioral and emotional health. In fact, suicide attempts were reduced by more than half within six months after entering systems of care (from 12 percent to 6 percent). Attempts were further reduced by more than two-thirds, for high school youth who received services through the system of care program for at least 18 months (to approximately 4 percent). Systems of care are coordinated networks of community-based services and supports. The full report is available at http://systemsofcare.samhsa.gov/nationalawareness/materials.aspx.

Howie Mandel, host of NBC's Deal or No Deal and the National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day Ambassador, emphasized that Awareness Day is a chance to educate people about the realities of living with a mental health challenge.

"Mental health awareness, services and supports make a huge difference, especially for children and youth," said Mandel in a pre-taped message played at the event. "I hope that in the future -- and sooner rather than later -- mental health check-ups will be as routine as dental health check-ups."

Herschel Walker, Heisman Trophy-winning football star from the University of Georgia, received the SAMHSA Special Recognition Award at the event. Walker was recognized for his work to increase public understanding of mental health issues through his recent memoir, Breaking Free, which details his battle with Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly called multiple personality disorder).

The Dare to Dream America initiative will fund youth-led activities that will promote positive mental health in their school and/or community. Funded by SAMHSA and Youth Motivating Others through Voices of Experience (Youth MOVE National Inc.) overseen by and the National Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health, Dare to Dream America will give youth a chance to speak out about the importance of focusing on mental health. Applications and additional information are available for the program at http://www.youthmove.us and http://www.ffcmh.org beginning today.

The STILL I RISE event in the District was one of many activities in communities across the country on Awareness Day to focus attention on the mental health needs of high school youth and the services and supports needed to ensure their total well-being.

National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day is an annual event celebrated during the first full week in May, which is also Children's Mental Health Awareness Week. A SAMHSA initiative, Awareness Day was established as a day on which all SAMHSA-funded children's programs and their colleagues across the country can demonstrate their support for children's mental health. May is also Mental Health Month.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a public health agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is the lead Federal agency for improving the quality and availability of substance abuse prevention, addiction treatment, and mental health services in the United States.


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SOURCE Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
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