Mental Health

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For science.
One in five Americans experiences some form of mental illness.[1] This doesn’t just impact the individual: It has a ripple effect that touches families, communities and society overall, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.[2] Many people experiencing mental illness also have substance use disorders, are incarcerated or may be homeless. Mental illness also affects 16.5% of youth ages 6-17.[3] Suicide rates for children ages 10-14 nearly tripled from 2007-2017.[4] Seventy percent of youth in the juvenile justice system have received at least one mental illness diagnosis.[5]

For action.
Advocate and educate to reduce the stigma of mental illness, and learn how your communities — the places where you live, learn, work and play — can provide support to people experiencing mental illness. Design and implement diversion programs for people experiencing mental illness to keep them out of jails and prisons.[6] Expand mental health services and support systems available via health care. Work to uphold the Affordable Care Act, which expanded the availability of mental health services and coverage for care.[7] Apply a health equity lens to ensure efforts reach those most in need. Explore and provide cultural competency and cultural humility training for health care providers who are providing mental health services to underserved communities.[8,9]

For health.
People experiencing mental illness are more likely to receive prescriptions for opioids and are at a greater risk for developing drug dependence.[10]  Mental, neurological and substance use disorders contribute to worse health and early death. Treatment for mental health and substance misuse results in increased health spending and reduced earnings for families. That translates to costs and lost earnings equally about $50 billion in the U.S. and Canada.[11] Thanks to the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, about 1.6 million Americans living with substance use disorders have gained insurance coverage.[12]

For justice.
Support telemedicine and other efforts that connect people experiencing mental illness to medical and supportive services.[13] Partner with community stakeholders to overcome transportation barriers to care, such as coordinating ride-sharing services or helping residents navigate transit services.[14] Advocate for supportive, evidence-based public health policies, such as easier access to naloxone and continued coverage parity for mental health and addiction care. Apply a public health approach to suicide prevention.[15] Advance cross-sector partnerships that target the social determinants,[16] such as increasing job training opportunities, growing local employment and helping children achieve academic success.