In honor of National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day, “Modern Family” actor Reid Ewing joined the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in Washington D.C. for a national discussion on how to improve access to behavioral health care services for children and youth.

This year’s event — “Finding Help. Finding Hope.” — explored how communities can increase access to behavioral health services and supports for children, youth, and young adults who experience mental or substance use disorders and their families.

The national event featured a highly interactive format in which youth and family leaders, educators, law enforcement officials, and behavioral health professionals shared how communities are working to ensure that children, youth and families can connect to community-based behavioral health services and supports. As part of the event, the in-person and webcast audience participated in the onstage conversation via social media and other digital platforms.

Ewing, who played “Dylan” in the hit comedy Modern Family, served as honorary chairperson of the event at The George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs Jack Morton Auditorium. Kana Enomoto, SAMHSA Principal Deputy Administrator, presented him with a Special Recognition Award for speaking out about his experiences with depression and body dysmorphic disorder – a condition recognized as a form of obsessive compulsive disorder.

“We applaud Reid for his openness and honesty in sharing very difficult personal experiences,” said Enomoto. “His efforts to educate the public about mental health issues make him an influential voice in support of youth and young adults with mental disorders. Through advocates like Reid, we can show people that help is out there, treatment works, and people do recover.”

Through his media interviews and his personal blog posts, Ewing contributes to the conversation on mental health and the importance of accessing behavioral health services.

“People with body dysmorphic disorder often become addicted to cosmetic surgery and yet no one stepped in to suggest my issue could be psychological instead of physical.” said Ewing. “I hope sharing my experiences will encourage youth and young adults with similar challenges to make informed choices and seek out healthy support systems. We all have a right to realize our full potential.”

Panelists discussed strategies for improving behavioral health care through the education, law enforcement and juvenile justice systems. Youth and family leaders shared their unique perspective as catalysts for systems change in their communities.

Panelists for the event included Paolo del Vecchio, Director, SAMHSA’s Center for Mental Health Services; Lt. Chris McKee, Town of Windsor (CT) Police Department; Olga Acosta Price, PhD, GWU Milken Institute of Public Health, youth leaders Amanda Lipp of Sacramento, CA; Nyamuon “Moon” Nguany of Portland, ME and Brendan Ward of Bowling Green, KY; and family leaders Regina Crider of Champaign, IL; Hugh Davis of Hartland, WI and Janet Pereyra-Herrera of Miami, FL.

NBC4 Washington News Anchor Aaron Gilchrist moderated the discussions and shared questions posed by local and national audience. In addition to SAMHSA, NBC4 also livestreamed the event to their vast audiences.

SAMHSA’s Awareness Day national event complements more than 1,100 communities and more than 150 national collaborating organizations and federal partners.

For more information about Awareness Day, new publications, or to view the webcast of the event, click here.

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