BATON ROUGE -- In recognition of Children's Mental Health Awareness Week, May 5-11, 2013, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospital's Office of Behavioral Health (OBH) is bringing attention to symptoms of mental illness and programs to support those who have mental health issues.  This week is dedicated to increasing public awareness about the triumphs and challenges in children's mental health and emphasizing the importance of family and youth involvement in the children's mental health movement.  

Nationally, fewer than 10 percent of children identified as needing mental health services get them within three months of recommendation.  This statistic reinforces the need for increased public education on mental health.

Across the country people are working tirelessly to raise awareness in support of Children's Mental Health Awareness week. Here in Louisiana, considerable energy has gone into improving the mental health service delivery system for children, adolescents and their families for several years. In March 2012, Louisiana launched the Louisiana Behavioral Health Partnership or LBHP. The LBHP expanded the types of services that are available here for young people facing behavioral health challenges and also the providers who can offer those services. 

One component of the LBHP is the Coordinated System of Care (CSoC). CSoC is a specialized initiative for youth with the most significant and complex behavioral health needs who are generally involved with other state agencies and are in or at-risk of being placed out of their homes. CSoC aims to keep young people with their families by offering access to an individualized care planning process and an array of specialized services.

"The LBHP and CSoC have allowed Louisiana to make great strides in increasing access to behavioral health services," said LDH Office of Behavioral Health Assistant Secretary Dr. Anthony Speier.  "OBH works to ensure care and support are offered to those with mental illness so even our youngest population is afforded an improved quality of life.  I urge parents to tune in to what your kids are doing and how they are acting.  If parents see any symptoms of mental illness seek professional help immediately."

LDH encourages Louisiana residents to educate themselves on how to identify mental illness and what options are available for treatment.  It is important to be able to recognize early warning signs of mental health challenges. According to the American Psychiatric Association, major mental illnesses such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder typically appear over time. More often, the individual or others around them notice some signs and symptoms of a developing mental health challenge. Knowing these signs and symptoms can help you be better informed about when to support someone in getting help.

If you or someone you know is showing some of these signs, consider seeking help from a professional:

  • Withdrawing from people or activities
  • Changes in functioning, in places like school or work
  • Difficulty with concentration, memory, or thought
  • Increased sensitivity to sights, sounds, smells or touch
  • Lack of energy or desire to participate in activities
  • Feelings of excessive sadness or anxiousness
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Changes in appetite
  • Rapid or dramatic shifts in feelings or moods

"Our Office of Behavioral Health is committed to serving those with behavioral health issues," said LDH Interim Secretary Kathy Kliebert.  "It is our responsibility to ensure that future generations of Louisiana children are allowed access to mental health services.  Ultimately, we work for a healthier Louisiana both physically and mentally."

LDH will be hosting its 6th Annual Children's Mental Health Awareness Summit, which is a day dedicated to raising awareness, education and advocacy for children's mental health.  The theme is "Your Voice. Your Choice. Makes a Difference" and will take place on June 13th at Pennington Biomedical Research Center from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

LDH is encouraging everyone to own their own health which includes both our physical and emotional health. If someone you know is experiencing these challenges, consider accessing support. Magellan of Louisiana offers 24 hour access to people who may be in need. They can be reached at 1-800-424-4399.  For more information on CSoC, check out