Commentary

May 23, 2014

Observing National Mental Health Awareness Month

Kathleen Sebelius
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

During Mental Health Awareness Month, we recognize the significant advances our nation has made in our understanding of mental illness and in improving support and care for individuals with mental health problems. It is also an important opportunity to renew our commitment to addressing the many challenges people with mental illness can face every day.

This past year, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) supported a number of major initiatives to strengthen the mental health of all Americans:

  • Under the Affordable Care Act, millions of Americans now have access to affordable health care – many for the first time – and plans on the Health Insurance Marketplaces are required to cover mental health and substance use disorder services.
  • In January, the President announced a comprehensive plan to increase access to mental health treatment and services in his ‘Now is the Time’ initiative to support children, families, and communities in response to recent gun violence tragedies.
  • In June, the Obama Administration launched a national conversation about mental health that resulted in over 100 community discussions in cities all across the country. These discussions are designed to increase awareness and reduce the stigma often associated with mental health conditions and make it easier for citizens to access local treatment and services.
  • In November, HHS partnered with the Department of Labor and the Treasury to issue the final rule to implement the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA). MHPAEA makes it easier for Americans to get the care they need by removing certain limits on insurance coverage for substance use and mental health treatment and services.

For more information about mental health, visit www.mentalhealth.gov.

This year, our work continues. On May 8, communities around the country celebrated National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day, which was created to shine a national spotlight on the importance of children’s mental health. This year’s national focus examined the experiences of young adults with mental or substance use challenges involving housing, education, employment, and access to treatment.

Recently, we also released – in conjunction with the Departments of Education and Justice – new grant opportunities to increase school-based mental health supports and to expand mental health literacy to help Americans better understand the signs and symptoms of mental health problems and how to access needed help.

Still, there is much work to do. Millions of Americans are impacted by mental illness. Our service men and women and their families are particularly at risk for mental and substance use disorders. Yet, many people facing these conditions are not getting the help they need. Our Department will continue to lead the effort to bring mental illness out of the shadows, improve access to care and spread the word that treatment works and recovery is possible.

If you or someone you know is suicidal or in emotional distress, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1‑800‑273‑8255. Trained crisis workers are available to talk 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

To locate mental health services in your community, visit www.samhsa.gov. For more information on mental Health Month visit www.hhs.gov.




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