Youth and Families

Setting the Stage for Positive Children’s Mental Health and Resilience
National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2006 – present

2011_Awareness_Day_ImageThe Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day (Awareness Day) seeks to raise awareness that positive mental health is essential to a child’s healthy development from birth.


Challenge: SAMHSA wanted to create national visibility for community-level activities across the country and spread the agency’s messages that mental health is essential to overall health, that prevention works and that treatment is effective.

  • The new strategy needed to provide SAMHSA with an opportunity to bring together the collective voice of local communities while having a national platform for its messages.

Innovation: Vanguard and SAMHSA created Awareness Day to serve as a platform for promoting the agency’s Strategic Initiatives, highlighting the efforts of local communities and showcasing the personal stories, talents and resilience of youth with mental health challenges.

  • Vanguard works directly with communities to help them use communications to promote the significant positive impact that services and supports can have on the mental health of children, youth and their families.
  • Vanguard holds a national event each year to complement local activities, align national stakeholder organizations and federal agencies with the Awareness Day effort, engage celebrity participants who are invested in the issue, promote the latest data about children’s mental health and showcase the personal stories and resilience of youth who have experienced mental health challenges and trauma.

Results: More than 1,000 communities throughout the country now hold Awareness Day events and activities in May with children to raise awareness about the importance of children’s mental health.

  • The first year, only four national collaborating organizations joined the effort; by Awareness Day 2011, 107 organizations were participating in a meaningful way.
  • High-profile celebrities such as Jamie Lee Curtis, Howie Mandel, Goldie Hawn, Sherri Shepherd, Keke Palmer, Mark Indelicato and Herschel Walker have lent their voice to the national event.
  • Media impressions in 2011 were nearly 358 million, thanks to a strategic integrated media effort that utilized traditional and digital media approaches supported by Awareness Day’s Executive Planning Committee, federal partners, sponsors and supporters.