May Spotlights Children’s Mental Health Awareness

News Release
For Immediate Release: 5/6/2021

Julie Naughton, Office of Communications (402) 471-1695 (office); (402) 405-7202 (cell);

Lincoln – The Division of Behavioral Health in Nebraska's Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is shining a spotlight on the importance of children's mental health in May by observing a trio of awareness opportunities: National Children's Mental Health Awareness Week May 2-8; National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day on May 6, and May is also recognized as Children's Mental Health Month.

Mental health is an important part of overall health for children as well as adults. Half of all lifetime mental illness begins at the average age of 14 and three-quarters by age 24. For many adults who have behavioral health disorders, symptoms were present—but often not recognized or addressed—in childhood and adolescence. For a young person with symptoms of a mental behavioral health disorder, the earlier treatment is started, the more effective it can be. Early treatment can help prevent more severe, lasting problems as a child grows up.

“This month, we encourage parents, caregivers, and other adults in a child's life to learn more about the significant role mental health plays in overall wellness and wellbeing," said Sheri Dawson, director of the Division of Behavioral Health. “Just like physical health, positive mental health is vital to a child's development. It is okay to ask for information, ask questions and reach out for help. Prevention and early intervention are important to a child's lifetime health. It's so important to normalize the health conversation regarding mental health." 

It is normal for children and youth to experience episodes of anxiety about school and experience short periods of depression. When symptoms persist, it may be time to seek professional assistance. As with adults, the COVID-19 pandemic has also affected children and youth.  Predictability and routine is important for youth, and for many youth that predictability was disrupted by the pandemic. 

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, young children may benefit from an evaluation and treatment if they:

  • ​Have frequent tantrums or are intensely irritable much of the time
  • Often talk about fears or worries
  • Complain about frequent stomachaches or headaches with no known medical cause
  • Are in constant motion and cannot sit quietly (except when they are watching videos or playing)
  • Sleep too much or too little, have frequent nightmares, or seem sleepy during the day
  • Are not interested in playing with other children or have difficulty making friends
  • Struggle academically or have experienced a recent decline in grades
  • Repeat actions or check things many times out of fear that something bad may happen.

Older children and adolescents may benefit from an evaluation if they:

  • ​Have lost interest in things that they used to enjoy
  • Have low energy
  • Sleep too much or too little, or seem sleepy throughout the day
  • Are spending more and more time alone, and avoid social activities with friends or family
  • Diet or exercise excessively, or fear gaining weight
  • Engage in self-harm behaviors (such as cutting or burning their skin)
  • Smoke, drink alcohol, or use drugs
  • Engage in risky or destructive behavior alone or with friends
  • Have thoughts of suicide
  • Have periods of highly elevated energy and activity, and require much less sleep than usual
  • Say that they think someone is trying to control their mind or that they hear things that other people can't hear.

Help is available. If you or a loved one need assistance, please reach out to:

  • Nebraska Family Helpline – Any question, any time. (888) 866-8660
  • Rural Response Hotline, (800) 464-0258
  • Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990 (oprime dos para Español) or text TalkWithUs to 66746.
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for English, 1-888-628-9454 para Español
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 or text LOVEIS to 22522
  • National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-4AChild (1-800-422-4453) or text 1-800-422-4453
  • National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)​

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