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April 2011Vol. 12, No. 3Awareness Day 2011: A Big Strategy for Small Voices

As resilient as children may be, they can—even at an early age—experience trauma that can have long-term effects on their behavioral health. Research shows that, when exposed to traumatic events, toddlers as young as 18 months can have serious psychological problems later in childhood and as adults. As they grow, these children take with them the effects of traumatic events and are more likely to experience problems with substance abuse, depression, and managing stress.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's (SAMHSA's) National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day began in 2005 as a grassroots initiative designed to demonstrate that children with mental health needs can thrive in their communities. Over the past 6 years, Awareness Day's grassroots activities have continued to flourish; in 2010, nearly 11,000 children participated in Awareness Day events nationwide, and the number of organizations joining in this public awareness effort has risen from 5 in 2005 to 88 in 2011.

A national event complements the widespread work going on locally and is now part of SAMHSA's overall strategy to raise awareness that positive mental health is essential to a child's healthy development from birth. In 2011, the national theme is "Building Resilience for Young Children Dealing With Trauma," which will be featured as part of an event in Washington, DC, on Awareness Day—Tuesday, May 3. It will include an art exhibit created by the American Art Therapy Association and a program paying tribute to youth who experienced trauma at a young age.

Communities around the country will also be holding Awareness Day events that either focus on the national theme or incorporate one appropriate to the populations they serve. SAMHSA will also release its annual short report demonstrating the effectiveness of systems of care and National Child Traumatic Stress Network grantees in treating children with trauma.

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SAMHSA's National Center for Trauma-Informed Care is a technical assistance center dedicated to building awareness of trauma-informed care and promoting the implementation of trauma-informed practices in programs and services. Visit the website to learn about the trauma-informed care model and more: