Children's Mental Health Awareness

Julie Naughton, Communications and Legislative Services, 402-471-1695 (office); 402-405-7202 (cell);

Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day is May 6

Lincoln – The Division of Behavioral Health (DHHS) in Nebraska’s Department of Health and Human Services is teaming up with the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to observe National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day on May 6. This year, SAMHSA and DHHS have chosen to spotlight suicide prevention in youth.  Help us save a child’s life.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death among adults in the U.S. and the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 10-24, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). In Nebraska, suicide is the leading cause of death for 10- to 14-year-olds, and the second leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds, according to data from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

“Everything begins with a conversation. Take time to talk with your child.  Does your child see suicide as the way to escape emotional or physical pain and suffering? Ensure they know that there is no problem that you can’t help them deal with and work through,” said Sheri Dawson, director of the Division of Behavioral Health. “It’s important to remember that behavioral health is essential to health. You can help provide emotional support for your child and get the help he or she needs. Learn to recognize warning signs that your child may be considering suicide.”

Know the Warning Signs: You May Save A Life

Threats or comments about killing themselves, also known as suicidal ideation, can begin with seemingly harmless thoughts like “I wish I wasn’t here” but can become more overt and dangerous.

  • Expressing hopelessness about the future
  • Increased alcohol and drug use
  • Social withdrawal from friends, family and the community
  • Dramatic mood swings
  • Talking, writing or thinking about death

Is There Imminent Danger?

Any person exhibiting these behaviors should get care immediately:

  • Putting their affairs in order and giving away their possessions
  • Saying goodbye to friends and family
  • Mood shifts from despair to calm
  • Acquiring the tools they need to complete suicide, such as a gun or prescription medication

What to Do If You Think Someone is Thinking About Suicide:

  • Ask the question “are you thinking about suicide?”
  • Assure them there is help and hope and that treatment works.

Resources are available to help you and your child. They include:

  • Nebraska Family Helpline, 1-888-866-8660. The Helpline is a 24/7 free resource for parents with kids of all ages, who have any type of question regarding their child’s behavior.
  • SAMHSA’s National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides free and confidential support 24/7, 365 days a year. The Lifeline also provides prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones. Call 1–800–273–TALK (8255).

On Monday, May 6, 2019, at 3 p.m. EDT, SAMHSA will host a livestreamed event about suicide prevention. To watch the livestream, click here:

Risk Factors for Suicide

About 90 percent of individuals who die by suicide experience mental illness. A number of other things may also put a person at risk of suicide, including:

  • A family history of suicide.
  • Substance abuse. Drugs and alcohol can intensify suicidal thoughts.
  • Intoxication. More than one in three people who die from suicide were intoxicated.
  • Access to firearms.
  • A serious or chronic medical illness.
  • Gender. Women attempt suicide most often, but men are four times more likely to die by suicide.
  • A history of trauma or abuse.
  • Age. People under age 24 or above age 65 are at a higher risk for suicide.
  • A recent tragedy or loss.

Nebraska’s Prevention Efforts

Nebraska’s Division of Behavioral Health, in partnership with the Division of Public Health and many state agencies, offers a number of suicide-related resources:

  • Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR), an emergency mental health, school-based intervention designed to teach individuals how to recognize someone at risk for suicide, intervene and refer them to an appropriate resource. Take a class and save a life. More than 6,000 Nebraskans have been trained, and the training has been provided to 11 Nebraska colleges and universities. For more information, visit
  • Over 600 people have been trained in AMSR/CAMS (Assessing and Managing Suicide Risk and Collaborative Assessment and Management of Suicidality)
  • In partnership with the Department of Education, over 26,000 Nebraska school personnel have been provided youth suicide prevention training.
  • All six of Nebraska’s behavioral health regions have Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors (LOSS) teams, comprised of survivor and mental health professionals who provide support for those who have lost a loved one to suicide.