Children’s Mental Health Week marked by city, county organizations

Recognition of mental health needs and services continues to grow in Columbia. That was represented Wednesday with recognition and work to raise awareness of children’s mental health.

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So, Columbia and Boone County organizations where some aspect of their operation focuses on mental and behavioral health came together Wednesday at the Shelter Insurance fountain, which was among event sponsors, to help proclaim May 7-13 as Children’s Mental Health Week.

Columbia Fourth Ward Council Member Nick Foster reads a proclamation Wednesday from Mayor Barbara Buffaloe recognizing May 7-13 as Children's Mental Health Week.

Representative groups included Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services, Bright Beginnings, Children’s Grove, National Alliance on Mental Illness of Columbia, ParentLink, Burrell Behavioral Health, University of Missouri Extension, Compass Health Network, Missouri Child Psychiatry Access Project, Columbia Public Schools and the Family Access Center of Excellence.

Each group spoke on their services, with many sharing stories of how they helped individual children or even entire families facing mental health issues.

Organizations and locations around Columbia also lit up green to raise mental health awareness. This includes a light at PHHS, the keyhole at Columbia City Hall, University of Missouri Hospital, Missouri Employers Mutual, Columbia Gateway Plaza downtown and the Shelter Insurance fountain. Individuals could likewise help raise awareness, said Heather Harlan, PHHS health educator, by having a green lamp in a window. Guests at Wednesday’s event also wore green to recognize the awareness event.

Columbia Boone County Public Health and Human Services Health Educator Heather Harlan welcomes guests Wednesday to the Shelter Insurance fountain for a recognition of Children's Mental Health Week.

The event also welcomed Columbia Fourth Ward Council Member Nick Foster, who read a proclamation from Mayor Barbara Buffaloe, along with his own remarks on the importance of youth mental health services.

“I am speaking to you today as the father of a 10-year-old child. So, the issue of mental health is very important and existential to me,” Foster said, reflecting on the COVID-19 pandemic and its mentions of the apocalypse. Another word for apocalypse is revelation, such as the final book of the Bible, he said.

“My minister friends were saying what is happening is a revealing of what is going on in our culture that are true but are not always noticed.”

This included people who were struggling with mental health before and definitely throughout the pandemic, Foster said.

Guests ring bells or play a ringing bell sound from their phones Wednesday for approximately one minute at the Shelter Insurance fountain as part of Ring4Hope in recognition of Children's Mental Health Week.

“For children in particular, we were noticing, we saw and were deeply concerned about their mental health as they had to stay home from school with their parents or other caregivers all the time,” he said.

This revelation also meant the community had an opportunity to address it and better understand it, Foster added. It still will take time, he said.

“Let us commit to being present and available to children and to watch out always for the best for them in day-to-day life in our community and beyond,” Foster said.

Charles Dunlap covers local government, community stories and other general subjects for the Tribune. You can reach him at or @CD_CDT on Twitter. Subscribe to support vital local journalism.

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