Over the years, Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day/Week has come to mean a lot to my family.
It means “Go Green!”. It means wearing a button that says “I wear green for my Sister” and attending the Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day event at the Capitol as a family, traveling from north and south Texas to meet in Austin for the celebration. To my grandchildren, it means spending time with Gigi to honor the work she does. And, in the words of my grandson, “make people aware of kids and teens that have challenges.”
As a mom/advocate my heart is so full during this week. It is a testimony that families (my family in particular) are resilient, overcoming struggles and obstacles. It is a time when we can celebrate with other families the successes each of us has had in our lives over the years. Our journeys may not be the same, but we can relate to one another providing hope and unity.
I want everyone I interface with to understand the significance of misunderstood diagnoses and the stigma mental health has on families and individuals.
During the first week of May, I cover my Facebook page with messages about Children’s Mental Health. I wear green every day in honor of the week, remembering those patients of yester year who were identified in psychiatric hospitals by being assigned to wear green garments. I want everyone I interface with to understand the significance of misunderstood diagnoses and the stigma mental health has on families and individuals.
Neither children and youth, nor their families, choose to experience the challenges emotional or behavioral struggles bring. It is a life we are given and do the best we can with it. We must de-stigmatize being identified with a mental health challenge and recognize it for what it is. Families are often blamed for poor parenting and that is just not the case most of the time.
I am so thankful to the Texas System of Care initiative and the Department of State Health Services, as well as their many partners, for the Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day event. What a fun time to come together to hear family stories that have been impacted by their children’s mental health, seeing super heroes celebrating with us and most importantly the sponsorship of legislators who are committed to getting the word out. For my daughter, it’s a time she can pay it forward, using her artistic abilities to face paint. For me, it’s a time for all my colleagues from all over Texas, to merge on the Capitol, to celebrate the strides that are being made to further educate the public on children’s mental health.
There is much work to be done, but having a specified time, the first week of May, and events all over Texas, as well as the country, to celebrate and honor children’s mental health is a good start. Let’s keep spreading the word!