Nationwide Children’s Hospital On Our Sleeves™ Movement – Locally Grown, Nationally Known


One in five children lives with mental illness.

Behavioral and mental health might be easily defined in a textbook, but it is rarely easy to voice – especially for a child, teen or young adult. Even with a statistic as great as one in five, there is still a stigma around this national health crisis. These young groups cannot always speak for themselves or find the right words to articulate the thoughts and feelings they have. Because of this, Nationwide Children’s Hospital knew it was time to give them a voice.

On Our Sleeves ™ was launched by Nationwide Children’s Hospital to build a community of support for children and their families living with mental illness. “The statistic is shocking, but one in five children in our community lives with mental health issues which impact their daily lives and the lives of their family,” says Donna Teach, chief marketing and communications officer of Nationwide Children’s Hospital. “People understanding the needs is our priority.”


The On Our Sleeves™ movement takes the classic saying “We don’t wear our hearts on our sleeves” and brings new life to it. The movement is illustrated by graphics placed on the arms of children and adolescents as symbols of their thoughts and feelings associated with mental health. “The hope is that a library of icons will be created to symbolize thoughts and feelings on the inside,” says Teach. “We have already seen some classrooms using the icons in intentional creativity projects as a way for students to communicate their feelings.”


When the movement was launched in October of 2018 (World Mental Health Month), there were three objectives. The first was giving a voice to the issue by creating awareness and advocacy in our community. The second was education. The goal is to provide resources to educate patients, parents and caregivers. The On Our Sleeves™ website works to provide much-needed information to broach the subject and find a clear path for the next step in the journey. The third objective is funding. Children’s mental health is often overlooked and underfunded. Gifts of any size help to expand care and accelerate pediatric mental health research in our community and across the nation.

“It is important and meaningful to lead a national conversation on child and adolescent mental health from Columbus, Ohio,” says Teach. A hospital wide fundraising effort at Nationwide Children’s Hospital launched the ‘Help Kids Everywhere’ platform in 2014 and soon realized they needed a bigger voice.


Thanks to a landmark gift by Big Lots, Nationwide Children’s Hospital is able to build a new model of care right here in Columbus. “The Big Lots Behavioral Health Unit will be the key hub for care, research and community relations for the children’s mental health movement,” says Teach proudly. “The outcome will be learning in Columbus and sharing with communities all over the country.”

The nine-story Big Lots Behavioral Health Pavilion is expected to be America’s largest facility of its kind on a hospital campus. The Pavilion will anchor a mental health network including crisis services, diagnosis, treatment, and research. The facility is expected to open in early 2020.

The grassroots efforts for the On Our Sleeves™ movement would not be possible without the support of the community, corporations and people with large platforms who are eager to spread the word and make it bigger. Patient advocates, celebrity influencers and corporations have stepped up in an effort to create awareness, share their experiences, and empower others to do the same.

To join the On Our Sleeves™ movement, learn more or make a donation, please visit

Sidebar facts:

  • 50% of all lifetime mental illnesses start by age 14*
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death among persons aged 15 to 24 years, and the third among persons aged 10 to 14 years. **
  • One in five children has a significantly impairing mental disorder; less than half get the treatment needed. *
  • 15,000:1 One child psychiatrist is available for every 15,000 youth under 18. *

*National Institute of Mental Health

**Center for Disease Control and Prevention