Deputy Executive Commissioner
Texas Health and Human Services Commission
Sonja Gaines is the deputy executive commissioner for Intellectual and Developmental Disability and Behavioral Health Services.Read More
In 2016, she assumed leadership responsibility for the policy and delivery of community based services and supports for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and behavioral health conditions.
Gaines has more than 20 years of community mental health experience. She previously served as chief of mental health services with My Health My Resources of Tarrant County.
Greetings and welcome to the 2020 Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day virtual event! I am so happy that you are joining us in promoting children’s mental health awareness. Our world is experiencing periled impact related to COVID-19. None of us could ever have imagined such a dramatic shift in normalcy in such a short period of time. Now more than ever, it is important that we recognize the importance of mental health in our youth and families across Texas.
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission works closely with many different people throughout Texas — people like you who care deeply about the mental health of children and youth, other state agencies, and expert stakeholder groups in this great state.
Our focus is on coordination, collaboration, and partnership among all of these groups. In particular, the shared goal of these groups is to meet the mental health needs of all children, youth, and families in Texas. To accomplish this goal, we must work together. By combining our minds and our resources, we become more knowledgeable and more efficient, and have a greater positive impact on people in need.
What we want most is for children, youth, and families to feel comfortable seeking help.
Mental health concerns in children and youth are common.
- 50% of all mental health challenges begin before 14 years of age and 75% begin by age 24.
- The average delay between the beginning of symptoms and getting professional help is eight to ten years.
- Suicide is the second leading cause of death in children, youth, and young adults between the ages of 10 and 24.
There is hope and help! Mental health treatments are effective, and recovery is possible. What we want most is for children, youth, and families to feel comfortable seeking help. This is what children’s mental health awareness is about — making people aware and connecting people to mental health resources when and where they are needed.
Everyone has a role to play to help, especially during COVID-19. In support of that effort, HHSC has made available a COVID-19 Mental Health Support Line that is available 24/7 for Texans experiencing stress and anxiety related to COVID-19. Mental health is everyone’s business. That is why this year’s theme “Power in Numbers” is so important. Collaboration is the key to better address the needs of our children and youth.
Thank you for offering up your voices and participating in this event to recognize that children’s mental health matters!
— Sonja Gaines