By: Mike Wright, Texas Health and Human Services Commission. Originally titled “Shining a Light on Healing”. Used with permission.

Focusing on suicide prevention, the April 27 rally and festival celebrating Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day was as sunny as the weather. 

Musician Joe McDermott, the “Maestro of Imagination,” was on hand to entertain the 250 people that gathered at Browning Hangar in Austin, and families who have overcome mental illness gave powerful testimonials.

Joe McDermott performs at Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day. Image courtesy of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

“It was a great turnout,” said Lillian Nguyen, director of policy, systems coordination and programming in the HHSC Office of Mental Health Coordination. “It’s so important to fight the stigma that too often comes with mental illness, and just knowing there are other people who understand what you’re going through makes a huge difference.”

In addition to the testimony and rally, attendees played carnival games, listened to live music and browsed arts and crafts. Nearly 30 community organizations came out to let people know about available resources.

“What we want most is for children, youth and families to feel comfortable seeking help,” said Dr. Courtney Heard Harvey, HHSC state mental health coordinator and associate commissioner in the Office of Mental Health Coordination. “Just as a child with a broken arm needs help, children with mental health challenges also need help.”

Damiana Cruz-Murray speaks at Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day.

That point was underscored by Austin’s Damiana Cruz-Murray. She’s the mother of seven children, two of whom have mental health diagnoses. Cruz-Murray told the crowd that silence is the enemy.

“If we don’t speak out on what’s going on with us as far as mental health goes, I don’t think the community will ever get the picture of how hard parents have to fight to get the services and the help that children with mental health issues need,” she said. “If we’re able to help one child, then we’re also helping the community.”

To learn more about Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day ATX and its partners, visit

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Austin rally tackles child mental health and suicide prevention (KXAN)