Advocates in Columbus push to change stigma surrounding children's mental health

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - As National Children's Mental Health Awareness Week continues, experts in Columbus are inviting parents, teachers, caregivers and other professionals, to change the conversation when it comes to addressing childhood trauma.

Susan Gallagher with New Horizons Behavioral Health said all adults in the community have a role in helping children who experience trauma.

"Change the conversation with children that maybe have behavioral health issues or mental health issues," Gallagher said. "All of us can help our children that have faced trauma, and the question should be, 'What happened to you and how can I help you through it?'"

Gallagher said the issues most affecting children today include food insecurity, domestic violence, financial struggles, and even childhood sex trafficking.

The Centers for Disease Control reported up to 20 percent of children in the U.S. suffer from a mental health disorder. Gallagher's concern is many of these children aren't getting the treatment they need because the subject of mental illness remains a taboo.

"Mental illness doesn't go away once May ends. It's always there, she said. "We need to keep the conversation going, reduce stigma, and get people the care and treatment they need."

Groups like New Horizon will lead the 2nd Annual Children's Mental Health Symposium happening in Columbus later this week.

The event, inside the Columbus Regional Library on Macon Road, starts this Friday. Around 80 mental health professionals will attend the event to talk about the latest research into how trauma affects children locally and state-wide.

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