By Eliot Brenner, PhD
President and CEO
Child Guidance Center of Southern Connecticut

May was Mental Health Awareness Month. It was reassuring to see people throughout the country come together to bring awareness to mental health, to fight the stigma surrounding mental illness, and to educate their friends and neighbors about the critical need for mental health services across the country. But let’s not loose this momentum, because the challenges we face require our attention every day of the year.

More than one in 20 Americans, 12 years of age and older, suffer from depression (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016). From 1999 to 2014, the suicide rate in the US increased 24%, with the rate for females aged 10 to 14 increasing 200% (National Center for Health Statistics, 2016). In Connecticut, one person takes their life nearly every day. Suicide is now the second leading cause of death for children ages 12 to 17 (Mental Health Surveillance Among Children, 2013).

Mental illness is like any other disease. Alison Malmon, founder of Active Minds, Inc., reminds us that “We shouldn’t use the phrase ‘committed suicide’. You don’t commit a heart attack, you don’t commit cancer. When somebody dies by suicide, they’re dying from a mental illness.” No words could be truer. We wouldn’t ignore a child who has cancer and forgo treatment, so why would we dare ignore the mental health needs of our community’s youth?

At the Child Guidance Center of Southern Connecticut, we work seven days a week to prevent suicides in the community. When children want to hurt themselves or someone else, our Emergency Mobile Psychiatric Services team goes directly to their homes, schools or communities to stabilize these situations and prevent suicides, abuse, and aggression. Because this program is mobile, charges no out-of-pocket fees, and is comprised of bilingual clinicians, barriers such as language, cost, and transportation are eliminated so that youth and teens in crisis can receive the mental health support they desperately need.

While the Child Guidance Center of Southern Connecticut serves nearly 3,000 children and teens every year in Stamford, Greenwich, Darien and New Canaan, there are still many more children in our community who are in desperate need of mental health care. Although Mental Health Awareness Month has passed, we hope that the people of our community continue to increase their awareness of children’s mental health needs and educate themselves about the services that are available and accessible for their families.

This article was originally posted in the Darien Times.