Suicide was the second-leading cause of death for Georgia children aged 10-17 in 2016. And the latest data shows more Georgia kids say they have either thought about or attempted taking their own life. That’s why raising awareness about social and emotional health, and the importance of good mental health for everyone, including children is so important.

Watch Our Suicide Prevention PSAs Here


Brain development, from birth through age 25, is greatly affected by experiences – both positive and negative. Adversity, traumatic experiences, and stress, as well as undiagnosed or untreated behavioral health conditions such as autism, depression and anxiety, can lead to the delayed or hindered ability to learn, substance abuse, or even suicide. In our latest brief on Children’s Mental Health Services in Georgia, Voices outlines the investments the state is currently making in children’s mental health and a set of recommendations that, if implemented, would help children with behavioral health issues. Read more…


National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day shines a spotlight on the importance of caring for every child’s mental health and reinforces that positive mental health is essential to a child’s healthy development. Thank you to all of our partners who participated in Children’s Mental Health Day and held events that raised awareness of this important issue.

Dr. Erica Fener Sitkoff, Executive Director of Voices for Georgia’s Children, led the panel discussion on Children’s Mental Health Day at the Capitol.

Members of the Interagency Directors Team took part in the conversation,
“Suicide Prevention: Strategies that Work,” including:

  • Erin Harlow-Parker, MS, APRN, PMSCNS-BC, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta
  • Layla Fitzgerald, DBHDD Program Manager
  • Ashley Harris, Department of Education, Director of Whole Child Supports and Strategic Partnerships
  • Jessica Donaldson, Project Director TREE House Program & System of Care Coordinator
  • Ana Gaona, DBHDD Youth Peer Specialist Coordinator
  • Sue Smith, GPSN Chief Executive Director

See pictures from Children’s Mental Health Day at the Capitol here


A new House Study Committee on Infant and Toddler Social and Emotional Health will spend the remainder of 2019 assessing the full continuum of services – from promotion to prevention to treatment – that is needed to best support babies, young children, and the adults that care for them, as well as evaluating the effects of adverse childhood experiences on infants and toddlers and invest in services specifically for those ages.

Infant and early childhood social and emotional health, sometimes referred to as infant and early childhood mental health, refers to the quality of a child’s first and early relationships and the child’s social and emotional development, including the ability to form close and secure interpersonal relationships with parents, family members, caregivers and teachers. Developing secure relationships with caregivers and other adults is crucial for the development of healthy social and emotional skills in infants and toddlers and lays the foundation for good mental health.

We are learning more on how to ensure that young children develop strong social emotional skills and to identify and support the families and teachers of children exhibiting persistent challenging behavior. To that end, Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL) is expanding its inclusion specialist program to include behavior support specialists to better meet the needs of early learning professionals that serve children with social, emotional and behavioral challenges. This expansion focuses on helping teachers develop strategies on how to address that behavior, including social skills and helping kids problem solve. DECAL will place a Behavior Support Specialist in six regions around the state to support childcare centers and children so they can remain in the classroom and be successful. DECAL is also launching a new warmline that teachers, administrators and families can call for resources, referrals and onsite support. Contact the Inclusion and Behavioral Support warmline at 1-833-354-HELP.

For more on how to develop the social-emotional health of our youngest children, check out these resources from our partner, Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students (GEEARS).
Developing the Social-Emotional Health of Georgia’s Youngest Children

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