Today is Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of four articles brought to you by Youth Health Service to highlight the importance of caring for every child’s mental health.

ELKINS — Today has been designated as National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Youth Health Service is joining more than 1,100 communities across the country to bring awareness to the importance of caring for every child’s mental health and reinforce that positive mental health is essential to a child’s healthy development.

For 40 years, Youth Health Service has been meeting the needs of Randolph and surrounding counties’ children, adolescents and young adults, and their families. During the past 30 years its focus has been on providing quality mental health services so that children can cope with issues that matter to them while thriving in life. Making connections and building relationships is vital to working with youth struggling with a mental health need, and especially so when addressing this year’s national focus of Awareness Day, “Suicide Prevention: Strategies that Work.”

Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for young people between 10 and 24 and West Virginia is consistently above the national average for suicide deaths, according to suicidepreventionlifeline.org. Youth Health Service works with schools in its six county service area each fall to bring suicide prevention programming and screening to students, teachers and school personnel.

“Our Signs of Suicide programming is some of the most intense programming we do all school year,” Tammie Rizzio, executive co-director of Youth Health Service said. “It’s intense for our clinicians delivering the programming, the teachers and personnel receiving the adult component, and for the students receiving the message… it’s very serious, but very worthwhile.”

In addition to the annual fall programming at area schools, Youth Health Service works in the communities it serves year-round to make connections, build relationships and serve as a consistent support for youth and their families struggling with a mental health need.

Those struggling with thoughts of self-harm are encouraged to: ask for help, remember that the feelings contributed to those thoughts can be overcome, create a safety plan, and re-evaluate their relationships. Anyone trying to support someone who is struggling with thoughts of suicide are encouraged to: take your loved one seriously, listen with empathy and provide support, learn the warning signs, and don’t keep suicide a secret.

Anyone with thoughts of suicide or concern for someone else being suicidal is encouraged to visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org, text 741741 to Crisis Text Line, or call Youth Health Service at 304-636-9450.

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