WATCH: Glenn Liebman, CEO for the Mental Health Association in New York State (MHANYS), talks about mental health and the role of MHANYS and its affiliate networks.
Why Our Cause Should Matter to All Americans
Whether we have a mental illness such as depression, know someone who has experienced such a problem or neither, we need to care about the issue of mental health. After all, we all have ‘mental health.’ We may not think much about our ‘mental health’ or even use that phrase, but it’s a common element in all our lives. Some people define it as a “state of mind.” Others view it as “being content with life” or “feeling good about yourself.”
‘Mental health’ is perhaps best explained as how well we cope with daily life and the challenges it brings. When our ‘mental health’ is good, we can deal better with what comes our way — at home, at work, in life. When our ‘mental health’ is poor, it can be difficult to function in our daily lives. It is a fluid state with disability and untreated illness at one end, and recovery and complete wellness at the other end. Most of us live and move within the middle range of the spectrum.
However, most of us take our ‘mental health’ for granted. After all, since it’s such a basic, yet unseen, part of who we are, it doesn’t seem to merit a lot of thought compared to everything else going on in our lives or in the world. But the reality is that ‘mental health’ is a major factor in all aspects of each of our lives. We see it play out in our relationships, in our performance at work or school and in health issues.
Today, protecting and strengthening our ‘mental health’ couldn’t be more important. With our fast paced, 24/7 culture, we face more stress from our daily lives than ever before. Many of us work extended hours or multiple jobs, and take less vacation. In fact, one in three American employees is chronically overworked. The line between work and home life is often blurred, so home is no longer a place of rest. Sleep and exercise feel like luxuries. We are eating poorly more often. We are constantly bombarded with information. We are also more disconnected from family, friends and neighbors, and less engaged in our communities than we used to be. Trust in one another has steadily declined over the last 30 years. Kids aren’t immune either; many are racing from one activity to another without any downtime.
All of us live with these daily threats to our ‘mental health.’ Many of us also face additional challenges that test us and put our mental health at risk. For some of us, it is the stress of caregiving or divorce or losing a loved one. Or losing a job. Or living with a disease such as diabetes, cancer or hypertension. Or an addiction to alcohol or drugs. Or a major illness such as depression or schizophrenia. Or surviving domestic abuse, a street crime or a disaster like Hurricane Katrina.
Our message is simple: Good mental health is fundamental to the health and well-being of every person and of the nation as a whole.
Whatever the source of the threat, how able we are to deal with these challenges can positively or negatively impact our ‘mental health,’ overall health and well-being. When considering all the ways it can affect each of us and our society, the issue of ‘mental health’ amounts to the largest public health and economic concern in the country.
What Mental Health America Stands For
Our agenda is clear.
- We want all people to understand how to protect and improve their mental health, and know when to seek help for themselves or someone close to them.
- We want our nation’s schools, businesses, healthcare system and other settings to have the knowledge and resources they need to respond to the mental health of their constituencies and achieve their missions.
- We want all Americans to have access to high quality, affordable and personalized preventative, early-identification and treatment services, when and if the need arises.
- We want persons with disabling mental illnesses to receive the support, treatment and services that they need to recover and live full lives in their communities.
- We want more research and services focused on prevention, recovery and cures.
The good news is — we have the knowledge and experience now about what works for good mental health. This know-how has been amply evidenced and communicated in a White House conference on mental health, a President’s Commission, Surgeon General’s Reports, Institute of Medicine reports and other high-level venues. We have tested techniques that help children and adults stay resilient to and able to manage threats to their mental health. We have effective treatments that combat the symptoms of mental illness. We have community programs that help people recover more quickly and get back to their lives. We have model policies that are working to support long-term resilience, recovery and empowerment. What we lack is a national response commensurate to the magnitude of the issue.
Mental Health America will advance its mission by:
- Educating the public about ways to preserve and strengthen its mental health;
- Fighting for access to effective care and an end to discrimination against people with mental and addictive disorders;
- Fostering innovation in research, practice, services and policy; and
- Providing support to the 60+ million individuals and families living with mental health and substance use problems.
What Our New Name Represents
As an organization, Mental Health America has been around for nearly a century. We began our work in 1909 when Clifford W. Beers, a young businessman who struggled with a mental illness and shared his story with the world in his autobiography “A Mind That Found Itself,” created a national citizens’ group to promote mental health and improve conditions for children and adults living with these health problems. It was a revolutionary act and attracted prominent national leaders of the time, including the philosopher William James and the Rockefeller family.
Our new name, Mental Health America, was chosen to communicate how fundamental mental health is to the overall health and well-being of every American. Our new logo is meant to convey Mental Health America as a forward-looking, vibrant movement. The bell image in the logo is a graphic representation of an actual 300 lb. bell, the Mental Health America Bell. The Bell was forged more than 50 years ago with iron chains and shackles that bound people in mental asylums. It serves as a vital reminder of our past and the progress we have made, and a powerful symbol of our vital mission.
We invite all Americans to join our movement to help all people live mentally healthier lives. To learn more, find help or get involved, go to http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/
There is no health without mental health!