By AMANDA KIMBLE
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Organizations across the nation will join forces in a fight against the stigma of mental illness. They will provide support for the afflicted, educate the public and advocate for proper, accessible care.
Locally, Pecan Valley Centers for Behavioral & Developmental Healthcare (PVC), pecanvalley.org, works year-round to accomplish those goals. The nonprofit organization’s mission includes providing “help and hope to all who strive to overcome challenges associated with mental illness.”
It all begins with reaching the youngest members of the community. PVC Community Outreach Coordinator Hallie Baird said encouraging children to open up about their own mental struggles while creating an atmosphere of acceptance and understanding is the first step in the treatment process.
To facilitate a conversation on mental illness and build a pathway to positive mental health, Lake Granbury Arts Association, lakegranburyart.blogspot.com, and PVC are hosting an art show and awareness event. The organizations are currently calling on area youth – from Erath, Hood, Johnson, Palo Pinto, Parker and Somervell counties – to submit original works of art that illustrate the theme, “Walk In My Shoes.”
About the art show
Registration is open to pre-kindergarten-12th grade students, giving them an opportunity to express their thoughts while creating a visual depiction of the theme. Participation in the show is free and artwork will be accepted through May 2.
Submissions will be displayed through the month of May at the arts association’s Shanley House Gallery. A public reception will be held 2-4 p.m. Saturday, May 7 at the gallery, located at 224 N. Travis Street in Granbury, where community members and art lovers can view the exhibit and “engage in a community conversation about mental health.”
To participate in the show, parents and students should download the form from the PVC website, pecanvalley.org/images/clientid_214/mh_art_show__may_2016__website_use.pdf, and attach it to the entry – only one per child is allowed.
Artwork must be on a piece of paper no larger than 8.5 x 11 inches. All submissions must be original and must be completed by the registering child. Youth may use any medium to create their submission, but the entire work must fit on the piece paper. Text is allowed, but it must be clear and legible. The use of copyrighted images, including images of celebrities, cartoons, video games and movie/television characters, is not allowed.
For more information on the art show, contact Baird at (817) 579-4435 or email@example.com.
Mental health and children
When it comes to mental health, Baird said it’s never too early to encourage open communication.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, nami.org, 50 percent of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14, but there is an average delay of 8 to 10 years between the onset of symptoms and intervention.
Intervention – or the lack thereof – can shape a child’s future. An estimated 50 percent of students 14 years old and older who suffer with mental illness drop out of high school, and 70 percent of the juvenile offenders in state and local justice systems have a mental illness.
The push for awareness is a life or death issue. NAMI says suicide is the second leading cause of death in 10-24 year olds, and 90 percent of those who ended their own lives had an underlying mental illness.
There are a number of warning signs. Parents should seek help if their child appears to be sad or withdrawn for two or more weeks, harms him or herself, threatens or attempts suicide or exhibits risky behaviors or signs of overwhelming, sudden and unwarranted fear.
Children with mental illness often refuse to eat, experience significant weight changes, display severe mood swings or use alcohol or drugs. Warning signs may also include drastic changes in behavior or sleeping habits and difficulty with concentration.
Parents are encouraged to address the issues when they arise. NIMH suggests speaking with the child’s doctor, obtaining a referral to a mental health specialist, working with the child’s school on the issue and connecting with families who are experiencing similar issues.
PVC provides a list of mental health services for qualified community members, including counseling, crisis intervention, family case management, group skills training, intensive case management, medication training and support, respite services and more.
Anyone faced with mental health concerns is encouraged to call the PVC mental health intake/crisis -hotline at (800) 772-5987.
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