While most people know that May is Mental Health Awareness month, many would be surprised to learn that this is the 69th year in which the issue has been highlighted to reach millions of people with messages of health, wellness, prevention, and recovery. There is no doubt that our country has made tremendous progress in recognizing, treating and supporting the millions of Americans facing the reality of living with a mental illness.
Unfortunately, after all this time, there remains a persistence of issues that stop us from taking advantage of the progress that has been made. These problems range from a stigma that prevents people from seeking and getting the support they need, a system that is reactive, at best, and lacks integration, measurement and accountability, and declining outcomes that have manifested in growing rates of suicide, emergence of loneliness and isolation as a key risk factor and an epidemic of opioid misuse and abuse.
I am proud to say that in the past two years, the National Alliance has stepped forward to do its part as a leader in educating, engaging and executing on a progressive agenda to address these issues. We have helped to define a collective agenda by providing education through our publications and Action Briefs, awareness of key issues and progress through our Leadership Summits and engagement of key healthcare stakeholders to assess performance that better support employers and their workforce. We’re seeing a cascade of our efforts and those of our coalition members and other organizations which is providing a renewed energy and commitment to improve mental health across the country. We are also seeing critical progress between the mental health professions and the health insurance industry resulting in constructive dialogs and action plans that have the potential to lead to positive change and improved access and outcomes for our people.
The issues that affect us in mental health are complex and will not be solved overnight but they are solvable and within our control. The key is for purchasers, coalitions and other stakeholders to stay the course to demand collaboration, reinvention and improved accountability and performance. If we do, we collectively can and will “move mountains for mental health” to stem the tides of stigma, declining access and worsening outcomes while taking actions that further integrate healthy minds as a critical thread in the fabric of the overall health and wellbeing of our people, our companies and our communities across the country.