Roanoke recognizes national children's mental health day

ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - It's National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day and mental health professionals are sharing useful tips for parents.

Members of the Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare set up a booth in downtown Roanoke Monday morning to spread awareness about mental heath illnesses among children.

"We have some brochures about suicide and depression, some wonderful information about signs and symptoms of suicide ideas, as well as some things you can do if you're concerned about someone's mental health," Cathy Brown, Division Director of Child Youth and Family Services for Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare, said.

Things like communicating and staying with the child who is struggling. Brown said, "And you know just basically let them know they are valued and you care about them very much."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that ADHD, behavior issues, anxiety and depression are the most commonly diagnosed mental disorders in children. They say that anxiety and depression have increased over time. Some think social media is to blame.

"I truly believe over the years that having this phone, and having a connection to a screen, has contributed to an increase because we're not using our own voice, we're not having those discussions, we're not getting kids outside," Nancy Hans, Executive Director of the Prevention Council in Roanoke, said.

Hans says kids do not need screen time 24/7 and parents need to look at screen time as something that can really affect their mental health.

But, she says, if you do give your child a phone, "There absolutely needs to be a family discussion around it, there needs to be a contract where even the child can be part of that in saying this is what I want to be able to do, and it needs to be written down."

"Certainly, if you see your child start to withdraw for an excessive amount of time, lose appetite, have sleep disturbance, those type of things are symptoms that you would want to seek help," Brown added.

Parents can help children identify a safe place and safe people.