National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Candlelight Vigil

Children’s concerns were very much on our agenda earlier this month at The Kim Foundation and we’d like to share with readers our personal reflections regarding two meaningful events in Omaha. On Wednesday, May 9 NAMI Nebraska and ASK Omaha held a rally culminating in a candlelight vigil across the Kerry Foot Bridge to focus public awareness on children in need of mental health care. It was emphasized by several speakers that children do profit from early intervention; we shouldn’t wait until children feel so hopeless and so defeated before addressing treatment options. Our challenge is to change the system so that children can receive life changing help early on.

It was especially meaningful to know that similar rallies were being held simultaneously across Nebraska. It was a beautiful evening, and in our location the wind was minimal this year, so the candles were able to do their part in telling the story of children needing mental health care. Thank you to Mary Thunker, Chair of ASK, for organizing the event, and to Tom Adams of NAMI Nebraska for being the evening’s master of ceremonies.

One bonus to the evening was a personal story shared by young friend of The Kim Foundation and her email to us the next day commenting on the vigil from her perspective, and the passion it brought to her. She confided that she had suffered with mental illness since she was 14 years old, but seeing all the children with candles, and hearing words encouraging recovery for children from Scot Adams, the Director of Nebraska’s Behavioral Health Services, she felt impelled to speak up in support of children who do need care, and pleaded eloquently that they have opportunity for recovery.

Our friend said that she has had many suicide attempts precipitated by her feelings of despair, but seeing the children made her realize how much she herself has to share with people. For a long time she thought of herself as only a mental illness, but seeing all the children who need and deserve early mental health care and are deserving of the opportunity for recovery, she realized that because of her life experiences, she can be a strong encourager and leader for mental health reform. She understands what children and youth are undergoing.

We were so proud of her words of affirmation for children, and of her willingness to share her story to help others understand the immense need for recovery oriented services.  She is a courageous lady, and will become an even more valued friend to children in need of mental health care in the future.

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