On May 9, 2012, Attorney General Eric Holder, together with Melodee Hanes, Acting Administrator of OJJDP, joined the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in providing remarks at an event observing National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day. The theme of this year's public awareness effort was promoting recovery and resilience for youth in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. The event, held in Washington, DC, paid tribute to youth who have demonstrated resilience after traumatic experiences, as well as the Heroes of Hope who helped enhance their resilience.
In his remarks, Attorney General Holder cited statistics from an OJJDP-supported study showing that more than 60 percent of American youth were exposed to violence, crime, and abuse during a 1-year period.
"As Attorney Generaland as the father of three teenagersprotecting the safety, and the potential, of our nation's young people has long been both a personal and professional priority," said Holder. "From the landmark Defending Childhood initiativewhich we launched in 2010to the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention . . . I'm proud to report that today's Department of Justice is partnering with state officials, local leaders, and stakeholders at every level to develop and implement tailored strategies for combating . . . violence."
Acting Administrator Hanes stressed that youth in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems have often experienced trauma, abuse, and violence in their homes and communities. "We must do the right thing for these young people; we need to properly assess their problems, offer them the treatment and care they need, and intervene in the conditions that brought them to the system," she said.
Leon Harris of ABC7/WJLATV hosted the program. Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, presented a Special Recognition Award to artist and Awareness Day National Event Honorary Chairperson Cyndi Lauper.
The program complemented activities taking place across the country, such as youth rallies, social media campaigns, and activities with children that promote community conversations about the importance of caring adults in enhancing resilience in youth following traumatic experiences.
OJJDP and more than 130 organizations collaborated with SAMHSA on Awareness Day this year.
More information about the National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day event and resources on childhood trauma and mental health may be accessed on the SAMHSA Web site. A transcript of the Attorney General's speech is available on the U.S. Department of Justice Web site.