Organizations partner to bring children’s mental health to forefront

Published 11:00 pm Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Brundidge Business Association (BBA) and the East Central Children’s Health Collaborative Project (ECCHCO), which is the children’s division of East Central Mental Health, have partnered to bring greater awareness of the mental health services that are available in Pike County as well as Bullock and Macon counties.

The BBA, the sponsor of SpringFest in Brundidge on Saturday, will provide booth space where the ECCHCO will distribute information about available health services.

Charlotte Watkins, ECCHCO project director, said that the booth will have information about nutrition, physical and mental health, and safety as it relates to youths with serious mental disorders.

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Children will have an opportunity to make a craft project and participate in a poster contest. There will also be a bake-off where parents vie for top cookie honors. The winners of the poster contest and bake-off will be announced at the end of SpringFest.

Watkins said that it is important for the public to be aware that mental illness among children is a great concern throughout the country.

One in 10 children suffer from mental illness severe enough to cause some level of impairment. Yet, it is estimated that less than one in five of these children receive needed treatment.

“At the end of ECCHCO’s second year, Sept. 30, 2011, more than 730 children and youth with serious mental disorders and their families have been served as a result of the ECCHCO Project,” Watkins said. “Because mental health resources for youth are scarce, parents who have a youth that develops symptoms of a serious emotional disorder often don’t know where to go or what to do. The partnership with the BBA provides us with an opportunity to get information in the hands of a large number of people and bring greater awareness of the ECCHCO Project throughout the community.”

May 6-12, 2012 is Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week and having a booth at SpringFest is an opportune time for ECCHCO to put its face forward.

Brundidge Mayor Jimmy Ramage and Troy Mayor Jimmy Lunsford signed a joint proclamation designating the week of May 6-12, Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week in their cities.

Ramage said it is sad that mental illness continues to be marked by stigma and discriminated based on preconceived notions and information.

“This stigma often discourages parents and affected children from seeking appropriate treatment,” he said.

Lunsford said that children and youth with mental illnesses and their families deserve access to services and supports that are family-driven, youth-guided and culturally appropriate.

“Values of acceptance, dignity and social inclusion should be promoted through all communities,” Lunsford said. “Children are our most important assets and their health and welfare and paramount to Alabama’s future.”