BALTIMORE (WJZ) — May is Mental Health Awareness Month and WJZ is highlighting valuable resources available in the community.

We spoke with a parent who learned how to navigate her child’s mental health and is now an advocate. She said noticing the signs and getting help early is key.

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“It was kind of tough to determine whether or not these were growing pains or a kid being a kid,” Chiara Noble of Baltimore County said.

Noble has a son with a mental health disability.

“He was having difficulty in school, trouble staying focused and concentrating and some behavioral things were happening,” Noble said.

A nurse at his school directed her to resources to help.

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“We really had no idea until we got him into therapy what was going on or what was the cause,” Noble said.

Her son’s mental health journey became a journey for her, too. She now volunteers with the National Alliance on Mental Illness Metro Baltimore, also known as NAMI.

“Our goal is to support, educate and advocate for individuals living with mental health conditions and their family members,” NAMI Metro Baltimore Volunteer & Outreach Manager Sarah Arndt said.

NAMI has a program where workers go into middle and high schools to talk to students about signs of mental illness. This work is crucial right now as students deal with stressors related to the pandemic.

NAMI also connects families with resources and facilitates support groups and classes for families.

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“It’s very important to have a support system,” Noble said. “It’s really a lot to try to navigate alone and that is one of the reasons why I love being so vocal about just mental health, in general, but, more specifically, children’s mental health is really near and dear to my heart because my son is near and dear to my heart.”

Jessica Albert