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Let’s Make Mental Health Awareness Month Last All Year

Let’s Make Mental Health Awareness Month Last All Year

Despite great strides in our understanding of mental illness and vast improvements in the dialogue surrounding it, too many still suffer in silence. Tens of millions of Americans face mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). National Mental Health Awareness Month creates a time to focus on building understanding of mental illness and helping those who are struggling realize that they are not alone.

Over the course of a year, one in five adults will experience a mental illness, yet less than half will receive treatment. Thanks to all of the organizations that promote education about mental illness and to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), many more people have access to treatment for mental health and substance issues. In fact, because of the ACA, 60 million more Americans can get help. Insurers can no longer deny coverage or charge patients more due to pre-existing health conditions, including mental illness. The ACA also requires health plans to cover recommended preventive services like depression screening and behavioral assessments at no out-of-pocket cost.

Programs that promote mental health among young people are important to recognize, not just during May but throughout the year. Today, thanks to Mental Health Awareness Month and the work of advocacy groups, there are more and more resources to train teachers and mental health practitioners to identify and respond to mental illness among students. The difficult road of veterans is being given the attention it deserves, with more VA mental health providers and enhanced VA partnerships with community providers. And new understanding and treatment for children who suffer from ADD and other disorders are being developed.

We too often think about mental health differently from other forms of health. Like any disease, mental illnesses can be treated. Without help, they can grow worse. During Mental Health Awareness Month and throughout the year, we need an open dialogue that encourages support and respect for those struggling with mental illness.

For those who need immediate help due to a life threatening mental illness there’s help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers immediate assistance at 800-273-TALK. For veterans who are in crisis there’s the Veteran’s Crisis Line at 800-273-8255. There’s the Disaster Distress Helpline for those experiencing extreme difficulty related to natural or human-caused disaster at 800-985-5990.

Keep these important numbers on hand, share them with people who need them, and even if you don’t suffer from mental illness, take the time to understand it so that you can be an advocate—not just in May but in every month.

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