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Young people honored at 2014 National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day

May 7, 2014
by Shannon Brys, Associate Editor
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On Tuesday, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius recognized Chiara de Blasio, daughter of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, for speaking out about her experience with depression and substance use, and encouraging young people in similar situations to seek help. de Blasio received the special recognition award at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day (Awareness Day) launch event at the National Council for Behavioral Health’s annual conference in Washington, D.C.

“Chiara and the other young people sharing their experiences today are taking a brave step in raising understanding about the reality of recovery from mental and substance use disorders,” said Sebelius. “Their message needs to reach individuals, families, and communities across our nation so that many more Americans can return to healthy, fulfilled lives.”

“I feel an obligation to speak out because adolescence is a time of vulnerability and insecurity, and we need to help each other during difficult times,” said de Blasio, who was joined by her parents, Mayor de Blasio and his wife Chirlane de Blasio. “We can only start helping our youth when we acknowledge that young people with mental and substance abuse disorders need our support. I know from my own experience that it's near impossible to get sober and stay sober on your own.”

At the event, SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde discussed a new cooperative agreement called “Healthy Transitions” that was a component of President Obama’s “Now is the Time” initiative. This new program will provide $79.2 million over five years to 16 states, tribes, and territories to improve access to treatment and support services for youth transitioning into adulthood who experience serious mental or substance use disorders.  Hyde also described how SAMHSA-funded systems of care, or coordinated networks of public and private community-based services, provide young adults with connections to peer support leaders who model valuable life skills, and help create opportunities for education and employment.

To coincide with Awareness Day, Administrator Hyde announced a new SAMHSA report revealing that the majority of older adolescents (ages 16 to 17) and young adults (ages 18 to 25) with mental or substance use disorders do not receive the treatment services they need. The report also examines the impact of mental or substance use disorders on education and employment status of these populations.

Other honorees included four young adult peer support leaders – Jim, Michelle, Qaiel, and Sean – who shared their experiences of resilience and providing peer support to young adults with mental or substance use disorders, particularly in the areas of education, employment, and housing.

SAMHSA’s Awareness Day national launch event will kick off activities in more than 1,100 communities and more than 140 public and private organizations. In the week following Awareness Day, SAMHSA will continue the focus on young adults with its third Knowledge Network for Systems of Care TV (KSOC-TV) Webisode, "Supporting Young Parents and Young Veterans," on Monday, May 12, from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. EST. The Webisode will highlight the work that is taking place in communities to address the behavioral health needs of young veterans and young parents.