By: Kelly Garrity, Senior Director, Membership Services and Development
Mental Health America (MHA) was founded in 1909 by Clifford W. Beers. After suffering his first bipolar episode following the death of his brother, Beers spent three years as a psychiatric patient experiencing and witnessing the abuse and inhumane treatment inflicted on people with mental illnesses. Upon his release, Beers created MHA determined to reform the current system of care for mental health patients. MHA has since grown into the nation’s leading community-based non-profit dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness and to promoting the overall mental health of all Americans.
With more than 200 affiliates and associates in 42 states, 6,500 affiliate staff and over 10,000 volunteers, MHA is a powerful voice for healthy communities throughout the nation. Driven by a commitment to promote mental health as a critical part of overall wellness, MHA provides prevention services, early identification and intervention for those at risk, integrated care services, education, and recovery support.
MHA is a member of the National Health Council (NHC) because as it says often, “you can’t treat a whole person with half a health record.” NHC offers it a unique opportunity to connect with other patient advocacy organizations around areas of common concern. Mental health conditions frequently occur in combination with other chronic health conditions, and the opportunity to work closely with other organizations to develop strategies to address the needs of the whole person offers for patients the shortest, most effective, pathways to recovery.
All of MHA’s work is guided by the Before Stage 4 philosophy — that mental health conditions should be treated long before they reach the most critical points in the disease process. MHA provides online screening tools for depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), alcohol and substance use, and early psychosis. After completing their screening, individuals receive immediate results, education, resources, and linkage to affiliates.
MHA also collaborates with a wide audience of affiliates and supporters to advance policy recommendations that promote its mission. Highlights of its recent advocacy work include:
- Release of its fifth annual “State of Mental Health in America” report ranking states on measures of mental health status and access, helping states to identify policy initiatives to improve their rankings (2018);
- Release of its Beyond Awareness Youth Mental Health report, focusing on the importance of supporting the work of young people in improving the mental health of other young people (2018);
- Release of a national workplace mental health survey, which revealed the major impact on workplace stress on individuals and their families (2017);
- Playing a leading advocacy role in the framing of the mental health reform provisions included in the 21st Century Cures Act (2016); and
- Establishment of its online mental health screening and screening-to-supports program that has to-date yielded more than 4 million completed mental health screenings, informing a variety of health policy initiatives (2014).
MHA’s current federal policy priorities focus on prevention, early identification and intervention, access to integrated care, and insurance parity for people with mental health conditions.
For more information on becoming an NHC member, email me.