According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1 in 15 children are exposed to intimate-partner violence each year, and 90 percent of these children are eyewitnesses to this violence. In fact, more than half of clients who enter YWCA Dayton’s domestic violence shelters are mothers with children, the majority of whom are 12 years old or younger.
Helping families heal and rebuild after trauma is a core tenet of YW’s programs to prevent and respond to violence against women. As Futures Without Violence noted in a 2018 report, most children are resilient if given the proper help following traumatic events, and the support of family and community is essential to strengthening children’s capacity for resilience and their ability to recover and thrive.
One way YWCA is joining in community to improve children’s mental health is by supporting Dayton Children’s Hospital’s On Our Sleeves campaign to help break the silence surrounding children’s mental health and recognize May as Mental Health Awareness Month.
Named after the idea that kids don’t wear their thoughts on their sleeves, On Our Sleeves is a national movement launched by Nationwide Children’s in 2018. Since then, more than 2 million people have been reached with free educational resources to start conversations about kids’ mental health, inform families, and boost wellness.
Dayton Children’s is a member of the On Our Sleeves Alliance, composed of leading corporations, youth-serving and health care organizations, ambassadors, and individuals.
“As a community, we all need to work together to reduce the stigma around children’s mental health,” said Nina Rains, certified prevention specialist with Dayton Children’s Center for Community Health and Advocacy. “Through community partnerships, we can share the On Our Sleeves movement and get families connected to information about mental illness and mental health resources”
Adds Michelle Sayer, clinical director at YWCA Dayton: “It’s a good campaign with a good message, and it intersects well with the work our children’s program does to help families in our domestic violence shelters. Our team, too, focuses on parent education and awareness – going beyond child behavior and looking at signs and symptoms of mental wellness challenges.”
YWCA staff take a holistic approach, Sayer said, by noting how trauma can manifest and providing tools for responding in healthy ways, especially for younger children who can’t always verbalize their feelings. In addition, YW’s intersectional mission recognizes that racism also heavily impacts children’s mental health, with an American Academy of Pediatrics report last year finding that racism is linked to birth disparities and mental health problems in children and adolescents.
With 1 in 5 children living with a significant mental health concern and half of all lifetime mental health concerns starting by age 14, campaigns like this one can provide space for critical conversations.
“As we stand together to raise awareness and to show our support in opening up about our struggles, we have the opportunity to change how mental illness is viewed and really make an impact on children’s lives,” Rains said. “Together, we can give children’s mental health a voice.”
To learn more about the On Our Sleeves initiative, visit https://www.childrensdayton.org/onoursleeves.
Are you On a Mission to help women, children, and families heal from trauma? Join Team YWCA! We have current openings for a full-time therapist and a children’s case manager. Apply now HERE.