Advocates work to raise awareness of children's mental health

Effort launched at start of Mental Health Awareness Month


Experts, advocates and leaders in the crusade to battle the stigma of mental illness brought their message Wednesday to the State House steps for the kickoff of Mental Health Awareness Month.


Advocates said they're focused on children's mental health, an issue they said is sometimes difficult to tackle, but acceptance is the first step along the path to recovery.


"It is an invisible disability, so yes, it's challenging to get kids to open up, but once we normalize it and cease the stigma, kids will freely and openly talk about it," said Dellie Champagne of the New Hampshire Children's Behavioral Health Collaborative.


Organizers said one in five children suffer from some type of mental illness, and half of those issues start by age 14.


"We really have to prove that treatment works, recovery is possible and there is hope," said Peter Evers of Riverbend Community Mental Health.


First lady Valerie Sununu presented Children's Mental Health Matters Awards to several people, including students, educators and support staff, for their recent efforts to help young people deal with and understand all of the issues surrounding mental health.


"We start seeing more and more of this ripple effect of the good work that you're doing, and we can bring others in who are doing it too and inspire others," Sununu said.


One of those recognized was Salem High School sophomore Bre Paquette, 16, who created a mental health awareness video.


"I want to use my video to help people and feel like you're not alone, and it's OK to not be OK, and I want people to not be afraid to address the situation," she said.


Mental Health Awareness Month will also be recognized Sunday at the New Hampshire Fisher Cats game.