Mental Health America celebrates Mental Health Month

Published 3:26 pm Wednesday, May 18, 2011

May is Mental Health Month, and Mental Health America is raising awareness about the one in four American adults who live with a diagnosable, treatable mental health condition and the fact that they can go on to live full and productive lives.

Mental Health Month was created more than 50 years ago by Mental Health America to raise awareness about mental health conditions and the importance of mental wellness and promoting good mental health for all.

One theme of this year’s activities, “Do More for 1 in 4,” is a call to action to help the more than 54 million adult Americans who have a diagnosable mental health condition.

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“We want everyone to know that while mental health and substance use conditions are common, they are extremely treatable and individuals go on to recover and lead full and productive lives,” said David Shern, Ph.D., president and CEO of Mental Health America.

Dr. Shern said too many people who are living with a mental health condition never seek or receive help due to stigma, lack of information, cost or lack of health care insurance coverage – as high as 50 percent.

“We need to change that,” he said. “It’s important that everyone have access to treatment and services because we have a tremendous amount of knowledge about how to identify, treat and even prevent mental health conditions.”

Dr. Shern noted there are many programs available in the workplace and the community that provide help and assistance to individuals who have a mental health or substance use condition. Mental Health America’s over 300 affiliates also provide critical resources and services in their communities. For a directory of affiliates, go to

The federal mental health parity and addiction equity act, passed in 2008, also expands access to care. That law, which applies to groups of more than 50 employees, doesn’t require coverage for mental health and substance use conditions. But if an insurance policy includes coverage for these conditions, that coverage must be on a par with coverage for other medical conditions. Higher deductibles, steeper co-pays, visit limits and other restrictions are no longer allowed for mental health and substance use treatment.

“The parity law and the new health reform law recognize what we have known for a number of years: mental health is integral to our overall health and well-being,” he said.

“Mental health is a major factor in all aspects of our lives. We see it play out in our relationships, in our performance at work or school and in health issues. All of us live with these daily threats to our mental health, whether it is major tragedies or common life changes.”

Dr. Shern said it could be someone coping with the stress of care giving or divorce or losing a loved one.

“Sometimes, people are dealing with depression associated with a chronic disease such as diabetes, cancer or hypertension. Or it could be a veteran struggling with the invisible wounds of war. And traumatic events like the BP oil spill can take a huge toll on mental health.”

Visit Mental Health America to find out more about its work and this year’s Mental Health Month ( activities.

– article submitted by Lou Parton, Polk County DSS