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May 4, 2017
Contact: HHS Press Office
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HHS Secretary Tom Price to present awards to Olympic Champions Michael Phelps and Allison Schmitt

Awareness Day 2017 highlights the importance of addressing the whole health needs of children, youth and young adults

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, M.D., will present Olympic champions Michael Phelps and Allison Schmitt with Special Recognition Awards at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) annual event recognizing National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day (Awareness Day). Teammates and friends, Mr. Phelps and Ms. Schmitt are receiving the awards for their support of children, youth, and young adults with mental and substance use disorders. They have also supported each other and emerged as advocates for treating mental health as an intrinsic part of overall wellness. 

Awareness Day 2017: “Partnering for Help and Hope” focuses on the importance of addressing physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral health needs when providing services and supports for children, youth, and young adults. There has been a notable increase in overall rates of major depressive episodes among all adolescents. According to SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health data, major depressive episodes among adolescents increased from 8.8 percent in 2005 to 12.5 percent in 2015.

A new report released today combines 2005 to 2014 data to show that major depressive episodes were more common among adolescents ages 12 to 17 with asthma (11.4 percent) or diabetes (14.3 percent), than among adolescents without asthma (8.8 percent) or diabetes (9.0 percent). Additionally, adolescent girls who were overweight or obese were more likely to have experienced a major depressive episode in the past year than those who were a healthy weight (20.5 percent vs. 17.4 percent).

"Mental illness and drug addiction, along with childhood obesity, are some of the most urgent challenges facing America today,” said Secretary Price. “As Secretary of HHS, promoting the behavioral health of all Americans and reducing the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on our communities are among my top priorities. We commend Michael Phelps and Allison Schmitt for having the courage to speak out about their mental health challenges. Their honesty and candor have shown countless Americans quietly struggling with mental illness that seeking help is a sign not of weakness but of strength."

SAMHSA’s Awareness Day 2017 event will feature an interactive talk show format in which youth and family leaders, primary care providers, and behavioral health professionals share strategies for successful collaboration in support of children’s mental health. Mr. Phelps and Ms. Schmitt will serve as Awareness Day 2017 Honorary Chairpersons. Since the 2016 Summer Olympics, Mr. Phelps and Ms. Schmitt have each been involved in activities that encourage children and youth to lead healthy lives, and they draw from their personal experiences to reach others.

“When I went through periods of depression, I worried about telling anyone how I felt,” said Ms. Schmitt. “I hope hearing my story will help other young adults feel less alone and more comfortable getting help when they need it.”

“Throughout my athletic career, there has been a lot of focus on my physical health, but I’ve found that taking care of my mental health helps me be my strongest self,” said Mr. Phelps. “I want to help children and young adults understand that mental health is an important part of an active and healthy lifestyle.”

Kana Enomoto, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use and Dr. George Sigounas, Administrator for the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will join Secretary Price at the Awareness Day 2017 event to highlight the partnership between SAMHSA and HRSA to promote primary and behavioral health care integration. 

“We commend Mr. Phelps and Ms. Schmitt for speaking openly about their mental health challenges,” said Ms. Enomoto. “Their personal stories highlight the importance of seeking strong partnerships to effectively address the whole health needs of children and youth.”

Through the Michael Phelps Foundation, Mr. Phelps has led numerous initiatives to promote healthy living and an active lifestyle for children. Ms. Schmitt has spoken about her experience with depression at mental health conferences and seminars across the country to spread the message of hope and recovery to youth and young adults with similar challenges.

SAMHSA’s Comprehensive Community Mental Health Services for Children and Their Families program, commonly called the Children's Mental Health Initiative, addresses the needs of adolescents with mental disorders. In addition, SAMHSA’s Wellness Initiative promotes wellness for people with mental and/or substance use disorders with the goal of improving quality of life, health, and longevity.

Access the complete SAMHSA report and four one-page “Spotlights” here:

Comparison of Physical Health Conditions among Adolescents Ages 12 to 17 with and without Major Depressive Episode

Bronchitis and Pneumonia Related To Major Depressive Episodes Among Adolescents

Past Year Major Depressive Episodes More Common Among Adolescents With Asthma

One in Seven Adolescents with Diabetes Experienced a Major Depressive Episode in the Past Year

One in Five Female Adolescents Who Were Overweight and Obese Had a Past Year Major Depressive Episode

For more information about Awareness Day or to view the live webcast of the event, visit www.samhsa.gov/children.

Follow the hashtag #HeroesOfHope to join the conversation about Awareness Day 2017.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation. SAMHSA’s mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities.

@SecPriceMD presents awards to @arschmitty and @MichaelPhelps – via @HHSgov - https://go.usa.gov/x5fqK


Note: All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other news materials are available at https://www.hhs.gov/news.
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Last revised: May 4, 2017

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