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Children's Mental Health Awareness Day brings much-needed attention to sources of mental illness

MAY 7--Mental illness afflicts 57.7 million adults in the U.S.--more than a quarter of the adult population--according to statistics provided by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Kim Foundation. That means one in every four American adults may need mental health treatment. Unfortunately, although mental illness often begins in early childhood, few resources exist to help parents, teachers and other caregivers recognize and identify the warning signs.

That's the focus of Children's Mental Health Awareness Day this Thursday, May 9th. It's part of a campaign created by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). President Obama issued a proclamation recognizing May 2013 as National Mental Health Awareness Month.

"Childhood mental illness has been shown to affect education, employment and relationships as young people move toward adulthood," said Natalie Kasiborski, Community Health Coordinator for the Health Department of Northwest Michigan. "Mental illness in children can be triggered by traumatic stress, such as abuse, violence in the home or the death of a loved one. If not identified or addressed during childhood, it can potentially lead to more serious mental health issues later in life." Nearly 60 percent of American adults report that they endured abuse or other difficult family circumstances during childhood, according to the CDC. And SAMHSA adds that young children exposed to five or more traumatic events during the first three years of childhood have a 76 percent chance of experiencing delays in cognitive, language, or emotional development.

Children who exhibit "clingy" behaviors, changes in appetite, withdrawal from normal activities, a sudden decline in performance at school, angry outbursts or unusual reactions to physical contact may be having trouble dealing with a traumatic event. SAMHSA recommends that parents, teachers and caregivers maintain normal routines, provide a safe place for the child to talk, prepare the child in advance for unsettling events or changes, and look for cues to help identify the potential trauma such as unusual anxiety around certain people or events. To learn more, visit

The Health Department of Northwest Michigan is mandated by the Michigan Public Health Code to promote wellness, prevent disease, provide quality healthcare, address health problems of vulnerable populations, and protect the environment for the residents and visitors of Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties. Visit the Health Department online at or call (800) 432-4121.