Utah events, awareness day spark conversations to reduce stigma of mental health challenges

KSL.com - Children's Mental Health Awareness Day

May is a month for mental health awareness, but more specifically, Saturday is a day to focus on awareness for children's mental health. Gov. Spencer Cox declared the day Children's Mental Health Awareness Day in Utah, and the day is also acknowledged nationally.

Rebecca Dutson, president and CEO of The Children's Center Utah, said a big part of the day is reducing the stigma around mental health challenges that people, especially young people, face.

"I think we need to spend more time helping people understand that our very tiniest people, our little children have mental health. And they have mental health concerns," Dutson said.

She said many people don't stop to realize that infants, toddlers and preschoolers have mental health concerns, but that addressing these early can change the trajectory of that child's life. She also said acknowledging the issue can lead to more solutions.

She said that parents should not hesitate, if they have a concern about their child's mental health, to reach out to a physician, The Children's Center Utah or other resources to get help for their child. She said that parents and caregivers know their children best, and can recognize when something is different, whether the child is more withdrawn or acting up.

"When you feel that something isn't quite right, we encourage families to reach out to their pediatricians and begin a conversation," Dutson said.

The Children's Center Utah helps children between birth and 6 years old with mental health challenges. Dutson said their clinical team uses trauma-informed and evidence-based treatments that are individualized based on the specific child's experience and needs.

Dutson said the last two years during the coronavirus pandemic have had an impact on everyone's mental health; as children were pulled out of school, families were isolated and there were a lot of unknowns, it caused stress for adults, which can increase the mental health concerns for their children.

"I think one of the most important things is that, as families and as a society … we should be talking about it more. It's foundational to our well-being," Dutson said.

She said that there are times that everyone needs more help, and that families should normalize talking about mental health.