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Children’s Mental Health Awareness Night

Guest Speaker Marissa Martinez speaks about the National Alliance of Mental Illness program and personal experiences with family and friends with mental health illnesses.

Families and interested individuals made their way to Salt River High School on May 18 to learn about children’s mental health issues from local experts.

The event was hosted by the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Special Needs Resources Program and Salt River Schools.

Just like physical illnesses, mental illnesses require prompt diagnosis and proper treatment to restore wellness and quality of life. Experts at the event stated that one in five Americans suffer from some form of mental illness, including 5 million children and young adults. Mental health disorders affecting children and young adults include anxiety, autism, depression, attention-deficit disorder, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Many of these disorders are treatable.

The evening started with prize raffles and informational booths set up in the school cafeteria. Representatives from SRPMIC tribal government programs shared information about health services, education and recreation programs for youth.

The high school’s main hallway was decorated with student artwork created with the theme of “Love My Uniqueness.” The interpretations of the theme asked for love and acceptance of each student’s uniqueness.

One of the speakers was Camelback High School senior Merissa Martinez, who shared her experiences with her grandmother and her best friend, who she helped seek help for her condition.

Martinez volunteers with the National Alliance on Mental Illness Valley of the Sun, the local affiliate of the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization.

During the presentation, Martinez encouraged listeners to become educated about mental illnesses to help spread awareness and understanding.

Families attend the Children’s Mental Health Awareness Night held at Salt River High School.
The long-standing stigma associated with mental illnesses remains, bringing judgment upon those affected by mental illness in almost all areas of life, whether it be school, work or family. Even in the medical field, doctors may see patients who know there is something not quite right, but never really get the help they need. Experts on mental illness say patients receive medical attention from doctors faster if they have a physical injury, such as a broken limb, compared with getting appropriate treatment for a mental health condition.

According to its website, the National Alliance on Mental Illness works to “increase knowledge of early warning signs and access to early intervention programs, decrease the stigma associated with having an illness which often discourages people from coming forward and seeking treatment, and equipping individuals and families with the skills and supports needed to promote a full recovery.”

SRPMIC Special Needs Resources Program
www.srpmic-nsn.gov/community/specialneeds/resources.asp
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Valley of the Sun
5025 E. Washington, Suite 112
Phoenix, AZ 85034
(602) 244-8166
www.namiaz.com