Today is National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day, and FFYF proudly celebrates this important reminder from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to prioritize mental health initiatives that promote children’s healthy development from the start. Beginning at birth, a child’s social-emotional development significantly impacts their subsequent development and learning, including their capacity to withstand instances of stress and do well in school. Long before children learn to read their first book, write the letters in their names or build patterns with colored cubes, they learn social-emotional skills from caring adults who model how to begin and maintain healthy relationships.

During the early years, children learn to identify their emotions, self-regulate their behavior, and ultimately begin to establish their personal identity. These fundamental skills are the building blocks for the complex learning necessary for later success in school and life; and access to high-quality early learning programs can help provide children the social-emotional abilities they need to be kindergarten ready. Head Start and Early Head Start serves over a million children across the country every year, delivering comprehensive supports, including mental health services, to low-income children from birth to age five. Investing in young children’s early learning has proven short- and long-term effects, and meaningfully supporting positive mental health is embedded within the Head Start model.

This year, the Office of Head Start partnered with the American Art Therapy Association and Youth M.O.V.E. National in recognition of the positive effect that fostering creativity and self-expression has mental health, wellness, and social and emotional well-being. Preschool and elementary school students submitted art along the theme of ‘I am a work of art’, which can be viewed here.

In addition to youth educational programs, health fairs, and art exhibits in honor of today, you can show your support and participate in the discussion on Twitter by using #HeroesofHope and #MentalHealth at @SAMHSA and @HeadStartgov.