DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Dayton Children’s Hospital is drawing attention to the mental health crisis children are facing as the hospital marks one year since launching its “On Our Sleeves” campaign.

On Our Sleeves started at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in 2018 to provide families with resources on mental health topics. Dayton Children’s brought the program to the Miami Valley in 2021.

“To try to break down the stigma of talking about mental health topics,” Community Behavioral Health Outreach Coordinator for Dayton Children’s On Our Sleeves Emily Weitz said.

A CDC survey published in April found one in three high school students experienced poor mental health at some point during the pandemic.

Weitz said while the pandemic drew greater attention to the mental health struggles children face, families are finding themselves waiting months before they can get access to a mental health provider.

“A lot of parents are just frustrated trying to get in places, you know, on long waitlists,” Weitz said.

Weitz said older providers may have retired during the pandemic, the virtual model for telehealth presents a barrier, and the pandemic caused a greater need for mental health services.

However, if a child is struggling, Weitz said there are things parents can do to help their child through a difficult time. That’s why On Our Sleeves was created.

“They can do some things at home to help alleviate that stress, and even help before it gets to the point where their child will need to seek professional help,” Weitz said.

Weitz said the best way for parents to start conversations on mental health is by starting small.

“What did you do at recess, what did you have for lunch, so start with those small things, and just let them talk, so that the more that they start to open up, kind of take yourself out of the response and leave more open-ended conversations,” Weitz said.

On Our Sleeves provides conversation starters, a weekly newsletter, blogs and other tools to help parents through having these conversations. To connect with On Our Sleeves resources, click here.