Members of the Family Advisory Councils for Empowerment Statewide, or F.A.C.E.S., in Hancock and Waldo counties join more than 1,100 communities across the country celebrating Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week, May 6-12.

F.A.C.E.S. is a program of the statewide G.E.A.R. Parent Network, which for the past 20 years has used peer support and educational workshops to empower caretakers of children with behavioral health issues to build on collective strengths and advocate for their families’ needs. F.A.C.E.S. members receive training in leadership and advocacy.

“Awareness Week is dedicated to increasing public awareness about the triumphs and challenges in children’s mental health and the importance of family and youth involvement,” said Carol Tiernan, G.E.A.R. director in a news release. “When we focus on building resilience and social-emotional skills, no matter what a young person and their family is facing, we can help them recover and thrive.”

Research has shown that more than one in four youth experience a traumatic event by the age of 16. Traumatic events range from a one-time incident, such as divorce or death of a loved one to ongoing experiences such as bullying, child abuse, violence or economic hardship within a family.

To focus attention this May on the supports and services that nurture resiliency and social-emotional skills, F.A.C.E.S. is distributing 200 toolkits of caregiver awareness, educational and support materials to mental health agencies statewide and 200 baby wellness kits to pediatricians and community-based organizations that serve new mothers.

The kits contain baby items, “Watch Me Grow” charts and a “Pledge to Protect Emotional Wellness” that also encourages new moms and dads to examine their upbringing in times of stress to see how it may be shaping their approach and responses to child-rearing.