The University of Tennessee Health Science Center will host a series of activities in recognition of National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week, May 3-9. The theme of the week is “Bringing Children’s Mental Health into Focus 2020: Perfect Vision 20/20.”
Altha Stewart, MD, senior associate dean for Community Health Engagement, associate professor of psychiatry, the director of the UTHSC Center for Health in Justice Involved Youth, and past president of the American Psychiatric Association, is leading the observance designed to call attention to the importance of children’s mental health, which demands even more focus during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“We are hoping that this campaign around Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week is going to remind people, even with the pandemic and the things that go along with coping with it, of the importance of paying attention to children’s mental health every day,” Dr. Stewart said.
Studies show that more than 50 percent of American children have been exposed to trauma or violence in their homes or neighborhoods, and that exposure can contribute to negative behaviors in children and a cycle of violence in the future. Dr. Stewart and the UTHSC Center for Health in Justice Involved Youth have been working for years to reverse that cycle and build a community in Shelby County that recognizes the effects of these Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and encourages partnerships of organizations dedicated to supporting children and families.
Dr. Stewart said past local observances of National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week, which was launched by the National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health, have included a block party and a film project with area youth.
This year’s events will be virtual and span a full week of activities including a children’s drawing project and a virtual walk/run, ACEs response and parenting trainings, and webinars designed to engage and inform families, caregivers, and providers, as well as to offer resources to the community.
Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris and Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland have issued proclamations in support of the week’s activities and highlighting the importance of the work being done to focus on the mental health of the community’s youngest citizens.
On Thursday, May 7, designated as Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day, Pastor Dianne Young with the family organization F.A.C.E.S. of Memphis, will host a Lunch and Learn Zoom webinar from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on “Building Resilience in Children During COVID-19.” Guest panelists will be Dr. Stewart and Keri Virgo, director of the Office of Children, Young Adults, and Families for the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. The webinar is free and open to the public.
That day, the public is encouraged to wear green, the color designated to represent awareness of children’s mental health.
A second Zoom webinar May 9 from 10 a.m. to noon will feature Kara Caruthers, MSPAS, PA-C, assistant program director and associate professor in the Physician Assistant Program in the UTHSC College of Medicine. She will discuss how women and children can remain mentally healthy while responding to the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A calendar of events, more information on activities, and links to access the webinars are available at