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      National Childrens Mental Health Awareness Day 2022

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           The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) created National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day (Awareness Day). Its aim is to highlight the importance of caring for every child’s psychological well-being. Held May 7, it reinforces the message that positive mental health is essential to a child’s development.  

           Awareness Day’s purpose is to increase public knowledge of children’s serious mental illness (SMI) and severe emotional disturbance (SED). It provides families of children suffering from behavioral health issues with the information on evidence-based practices, and encouragement to seek treatment.  

           SAMHSA’s Awareness Day event was first held in Washington, DC. Their goal was to amplify and support the work they were doing at the community level. Awareness Day began as a grassroots effort among SAMHSA-funded systems of care. It has expanded to include other federal programs and national organizations.  

           Since its inception, Awareness Day has served as SAMHSA’s key strategy to:  

      • Raise awareness of the efficacy of community-based mental health and substance use services. 
      • Demonstrate how children’s emotional health initiatives promote positive youth development, recovery, and resilience.  
      • Show how children, youth, and young adults with mental and/or substance use disorders can flourish in their communities.  

           Over the years, Awareness Day has grown in scope, visibility, and support. As a result, organizations at the national community levels have developed relationships leading to new collaborations. This has resulted in creating greater opportunities for the long-term sustainability of beneficial programs.  

           More than 1,100 communities and 170 national collaborating organizations take part in Awareness Day activities. This year, these include youth educational programs, health fairs, art exhibits, and social networking campaigns in observance of Awareness Day.   

           The Pandemic and Its Effect on Children  

           The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicated that the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) affected children directly and indirectly. Though many avoided getting sick, young people’s social, emotional, and mental well-being has been affected by the pandemic. Trauma faced at this developmental stage can continue to affect them throughout their lives.  

           Some of the challenges children and teenagers have faced during the pandemic are:  

      • Changes in their routines - Having to physically distance themselves from their family, friends, and worship community.  
      • Breaks in continuity of learning – Enduring difficulties of virtual learning environments, technology access, and connectivity interruption issues.  
      • Breaks in continuity of health care - Missing scheduled checkups and immunization visits. Also, limited access to mental, physical therapy, and occupational health services.  
      • Missed significant life events – Being unable to celebrate with family and friends, take a vacation, and missing milestone life events.  
      • Lost security and safety – Experiencing increased insecurity and violence, both online and offline, as well as threats to their physical health. They are also struggling with uncertainty about the future. 

           UNICEF’s study, The State of the World’s Children 2021, said problems were arising even before COVID-19. Children and young people were carrying burdens of mental health conditions without significant investment in addressing them.  

           According to estimates, 1 in 7 adolescents aged 10–19 is living with a diagnosed mental disorder. 46,000 of them die from suicide each year, among the top five causes of death for this age group. Even with these stark statistics, gaps persist between mental health needs and associated funding. The report finds that about 2 percent of government health budgets are given to mental health spending globally.  

      Children’s Educational Impact  

      The American Rescue Plan Act, passed in March 2021, included $170 billion for school funding. Schools used the funding to hire mental health workers, including psychologists.  

      The psychology field recognizes a shortage of behavioral health services for kids. Addressing those needs may not be a realistic solution until the workforce grows. kids in class raising raising their hands 

      “Relying on temporary funding to hire permanent staff isn’t financially sustainable for lower-income districts,” said Kenneth Polishchuk, American Psychological Association’s (APA) senior director for congressional and federal relations. “As a result, many schools are hiring mental health providers on a short-term basis, as well as taking a preventative approach focused on training teachers in psychological principles.”  

      “Psychologists in some districts are training teachers in basic social and emotional skills to help students cope with stress and anxiety in real-time,”

      - Kathryn H. Howell, Ph.D., University of Memphis, Associate Professor of Child and Family Psychology

       Howell said equipping kids with coping skills in the classroom prevents strain on school psychologists. It will also improve students’ ability to learn. Howell also stated that:

      “As psychologists, we don’t just want to bring in interventions that only we as experts can deliver,” Howell said. “We need to make it sustainable by teaching those on the front lines how to equip kids with the skills they need to thrive.”  

           Some teachers are incorporating formal mental health lessons into their curriculum with help from psychologists. One example: New York state requires basic emotional health education in health classes.  

           Scarsdale, New York, school psychologist Peter Faustino, PsyD, has been receiving requests from teachers for help incorporating pandemic-relevant topics. The subject list includes anxiety, trauma, and warning signs of suicide in their classes.  

           Other schools, he said, are investing in social and emotional health training programs for staff. One model is Yale University’s RULER program. It teaches school administrators and teachers how to equip students with emotional intelligence skills.  

           Teachers are facing increasing trauma and behavioral health problems, according to Laurie McGarry Klose, president of the NASP (National Association of School Psychologists). A significant obstacle exists, as many teachers don’t feel equipped to handle their students’ struggles. Only 15% of educators feel comfortable addressing pandemic-related grief or trauma, an American Federation of Teachers 2020 survey found. 

           Psychologists are finding new ways to share their ability to address the needs of students with school personnel. Samuel Song, Ph.D., is creating a program to deliver a four-part web-based curriculum on trauma-informed practices. Such programs can help teachers identify signs of stressors in students and cope with their own trauma. With resources and training, kids who are struggling can be routed to the right support services within the school system. 

           “We know one-on-one therapy won’t be possible for every kid who’s struggling, so we need a multipronged approach to help build the capacity of teachers and staff to support kids in the classroom setting,” said Melissa Pearrow, Ph.D., a professor of counseling and school psychology at the University of Massachusetts Boston.  

      Mental and Behavioral Health Impact  

           UNICEF and Gallup conducted the survey, The State of the World’s Children 2021. It revealed the mental and behavioral health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the findings, one out of every five people aged 15 to 24 surveyed said they were often depressed. Another sign: they had no interest in doing activities they normally enjoy. 

           As COVID-19 begins to wind down, the impact on children and young people’s mental health and well-being still weighs heavily. The latest data from UNICEF states that 1 in 7 children has been directly affected by lockdowns. They found that 1.6 billion have suffered educational progress.  

           Their disruption of routines, education, and recreation, as well as concern for family income and health, has a cost. It’s leaving many young people feeling afraid, angry, and concerned for their future.  

           The societal cost of youth being diagnosed with emotional burdens is significant. These burdens can harm their health, education, life outcomes, and earning ability. A recent report by the London School of Economics shows the impact of mental disorders on economies. Their estimate: is $390 billion a year. 

      Behavioral Health Intervention for Providers  

           The study, Current Status and Future Prospects of Clinical Psychology said rising healthcare costs are affecting behavioral health decisions for children. 

           Responsibility is being transferred from practitioners to health economists, health plans, and insurers. Health care decision-making is increasingly being guided by evidence that a treatment is useful, deliverable, cost-effective, and scientifically plausible.  

           Heightened cost concerns and institutional–economic decision-making is on the rise. Psychologists are losing the leadership role in mental and behavioral health care. Other health practitioners are providing an increasing proportion of pediatric treatment. While the use of psychiatric medication has increased dramatically, less of it is being used in tandem with clinical psychological interventions.  

           Research has shown that numerous psychological interventions are effective and cost-efficient.famale psychologist working with teenage boy in office However, these interventions aren’t always used with patients who’d benefit from them. Clinical psychologists haven’t always made a convincing case for the use of these interventions. Often, this is due to a lack of data that decision-makers need to support the implementation of interventions.  

           Clinical psychologists’ obstacles to achieving more impact may be traced to mixed feelings about the role of expanding scientific evidence. They may value their personal clinical experience over research evidence. They may prefer assessment practices rather than interventions with the strongest evidence of efficacy.  

           Medicine was reformed by the American Medical Association, to increase the science base of med school education. Evidence shows that many clinical psychology doctoral training programs de-emphasize science in their training. Some students don’t apply or generate any progressive scientific discoveries.  

           A way to improve public health impact is to make sure that clinical psychology doctoral students get training in science. Strengthening training standards in medicine enhances the quality of medical health care. Raising instructional standards in clinical psychology will improve mental health care.  

      This approach will:  

      • Allow the consumers and employers to identify scientifically trained child psychologists.  
      • Recognize science-based training programs and practitioners.  
      • Produce aspirational effects, enhancing overall training quality.  
      • Help accredited programs improve their training in the application and generation of science.  
      • Help control rising health care costs.  

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