Newsroom > DHHS News Release

For Immediate Release
May 4, 2016

Contact Julie Naughton, Communications and Legislative Services, (office) 402-471-1695 or (cell) 402-405-7202, 

National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day to Take Place May 5

Lincoln—More than 37,000 children in Nebraska face behavioral health disorders – and with the upcoming Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day on May 5, the Department of Health and Human Services is working to raise awareness of and destigmatize mental illness and highlight the services available to young Nebraskans with behavioral disorders, said Courtney Phillips, chief executive officer of the Department of Health and Human Services.

That’s especially important because half of all lifetime mental illnesses begin at the age of 14, added Sheri Dawson, R.N., director of DHHS’ Division of Behavioral Health, on the significance of the awareness day. “As well, 16,000 Nebraska adolescents ages 12 to 17 had at least one major depressive episode in 2014,” Dawson said.

Nebraska’s awareness day will be held in conjunction with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) observance. SAMHSA founded the initiative in 2006. It is intended to explore how communities can increase access to behavioral health services and supports for children, youth and young adults who experience mental or substance use disorders and their families. The event will also be webcast as a special edition of Knowledge Network for Systems of Care TV (KSOC-TV) .

“The goal is to raise awareness about children’s mental health issues, because so many kids aren’t getting the help they need,” said Karla Bennetts, executive director of Families CARE, a non-profit family organization in Kearney that provides services to parents who have children with emotional, behavioral and mental health challenges. The organization, one of six across the state, works with the Department of Health and Human Services to highlight help available for children.

The Department of Health and Human Services recently announced the Children’s System of Care, a framework for integrating mental health services and supports for children and youth who have a serious emotional disturbance and their families, through a collaboration across and involving public and private partners, families and youth. “It involves building state and local collaboration with youth, families and system partners for the purpose of improving access to a coordinated community-based and culturally responsive array of services and supports,” said Phillips. In Nebraska, parents seeking help may also call the Nebraska Family Helpline, 1-888-866-8660, a free service staffed by licensed behavioral health professionals, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  The Family Helpline is administered by Boys Town National Hotline in partnership with DHHS.

 On May 5, the Nebraska Family Support Network, will put on an event for Nebraska families, featuring face painting, free food, and fun and games. It will take place at 6 p.m. at Turner Park in Omaha.