May 9 is National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day and the month of May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Approximately fifty percent of chronic mental illnesses begin by the age of 14 and 75 percent by age 24. 15 million children have a mental, emotional or behavioral health condition. There are often lengthy delays between the time symptoms first appear and when an individual seeks treatment, and early diagnosis and treatment can make a difference in the successful management of mental illness and recovery.

Kids are naturally curious and have questions about mental illnesses. It can be challenging for adults as well as for children. Myths, confusion and misinformation about mental illnesses cause anxiety, create stereotypes and promote stigma.

Parents can help children understand that these are real illnesses that can be treated. In order to talk with a child about mental illnesses, you must be knowledgeable and reasonably comfortable with the subject. Some parents may have to do a little homework to be better informed.

Because children often can’t understand difficult situations on their own, you should pay particular attention if they experience:

1. Loss of a loved one

2. Divorce or separation of their parents

3. Any major transition – new home, new school.

4. Traumatic life experiences, like living through a natural disaster

5. Teasing or bullying

6. Difficulties in school or with classmates

If you think your child is in danger of harming themselves or others, seek immediate assistance and teach them the Crisis Text Line and text SOS to 741741 since they probably prefer to text about emotional issues than talk about them.

Brochures that inform what to look for and crisis wallet cards are available at 112 partners in Curry County. Find a list on the web at ZeroAttempts.org/curry.html Stay safe.

Gordon Clay

Brookings

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