Safeguarding our children's mental health

With all the violent imagery in the news in recent days, you may be taking extra precautions to limit your young children's exposure to the media. I know I am. My children, now 5 and 7, are like sponges. They absorb everything they see and hear, and frightening stories and images can haunt them in their sleep and distract them at school.

In fact today is Children's Mental Health Awareness Day -- and this year's theme is building resilience in children who are dealing with trauma.

Positive mental health is critical to a child's healthy development from birth. That's why DC Action for Children is working with partners and At-Large Council Member David Catania to strengthen his bill focused on elevating child and youth mental health, the "South Capital Street Tragedy Memorial Act of 2011." We welcome your feedback as we work to ensure that the bill reflects best practices and evidence-based approaches already at work in the District.

But we can all play a role.  Whether as parents, teachers, advocates, service providers or simply as adults, we can help young children cope with traumatic events by giving them the opportunity to express their emotions constructively, answering their questions in ways they can process or, if necessary, connecting them with mental health resources in the community. For more information, visit SAMHSA's website.