SAMHSA and Child Development Experts Promote the Importance of Mental Health Starting at Birth

Friday, May 7, 2010 Mental Health News
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"The View's" Sherri Shepherd, child development pioneer Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, and expert panel join SAMHSA to celebrate fifth anniversary of National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day

WASHINGTON May 6 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- To highlight the importance of promoting children's mental health from birth, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and more than 80 public and private collaborating organizations and federal programs and agencies - including new supporters, such as the Office of Head Start at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Endowment for the Arts, and the American Legion Auxiliary - today joined in a nationwide celebration of National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day (May 6). National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day puts the spotlight on the importance of promoting positive social and emotional development in children and the need for early identification of mental health challenges.

Nationwide, more than 1,000 community-based mental health service and support providers, community programs, schools, and collaborating organization affiliates also celebrated this annual observance, marking the day with community events, youth rallies, social media campaigns, and art activities with children to raise awareness about the importance of children's mental health. SAMHSA supports this program as part of its strategic initiative to promote public awareness and support of mental and substance -use disorder prevention and treatment, as well as part of its activities in support of Mental Health Month.

The Awareness Day Early Childhood Forum, held at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, featured presentations by SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, J.D., and Dr. Joan Lombardi from the Administration for Children and Families in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The event included two discussion panels with celebrity parent Sherri Shepherd from ABC's "The View," as well as renowned family, child development, and early childhood mental health experts, who discussed why positive social and emotional development in children as early as birth is essential to their overall healthy development. The panel's experts included:

Pediatrician and author Dr. T. Berry Brazelton received the SAMHSA Special Recognition Award at the Awareness Day Early Childhood Forum for his pioneering work in pediatric and early childhood development over the past six decades. A leading force behind the pediatric health care revolution, his ground-breaking Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale (NBAS) is now used worldwide to recognize the physical and neurological responses of newborns, as well as emotional well-being and individual differences. His legacy continues to transform our understanding of child development.

Earlier in the day, the "Awareness Day Turns 5" celebration featured activities for young children, their parents, and their caregivers to express emotions through music, dance, and visual arts, demonstrating how the arts can nurture social and emotional development. The celebration, which occurred within the District of Columbia was part of the SAMHSA-sponsored nationwide Awareness Day activity, "My Feelings Are a Work of Art." Caregivers at Head Start sites, military bases, child care programs, local museums, and children's mental health programs across the country helped children in preschool through 3rd grade create art, such as paintings or drawings that can spark conversations between adults and young children about having and expressing feelings.

For more information about Awareness Day and to view the list of collaborating organizations, visit

SAMHSA is a public health agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Its mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America's communities.

-- Dr. Janice Cooper from the National Center for Children in Poverty at Columbia University; -- Dr. Lynette Fraga from ZERO TO THREE; -- Dr. Walter Gilliam from The Edward Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy at Yale University; -- Dr. Mary Louise Hemmeter from the Department of Special Education at Vanderbilt University; -- Dr. Larke Huang and A. Kathryn Power representing SAMHSA; -- Dr. Judith Romano representing the American Academy of Pediatrics; -- Dr. Ross Thompson from the Department of Psychology at the University of California, Davis; and -- Dr. Albert Zachik from Child and Adolescent Services, Mental Hygiene Administration at the Maryland State Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

SOURCE Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

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