Changing the Way We Look at Mental Health

New coalition of non-profit groups and private sector leaders has come together to raise awareness of mental health treatment.

We know that an estimated one in five people has a diagnosable mental health condition.

We also know that people are much less likely to talk about or seek help for mental health concerns than for physical conditions. Stigma, embarrassment, fear, and lack of information are common barriers to people getting needed help for mental health problems.

The members of the Campaign to Change Direction are working together to raise awareness and create a new story in America about mental health, mental illness treatment, and wellness. The campaign is a coalition of nonprofit, government, business, faith community leaders, and many others, led by Give an Hour, an organization that provides pro bono mental health services to military members, veterans, and their families.

As First Lady Michelle Obama said at the campaign launch on March 4 in Washington, D.C., “It is time to flip the script on mental health in the country.…It is time to tell everyone who is dealing with a mental health issue in this country that they are not alone and that getting support and treatment isn’t a sign of weakness — it’s a sign of strength.”

The campaign grew out of discussions at the White House National Conference on Mental Health in 2013, held in response to the Sandy Hook tragedy. With a diverse group of leaders the campaign aims to:

  • Free us to see our mental health as having equal value to our physical health
  • Create a common language that allows us to recognize the signs of emotional suffering in ourselves and others
  • Encourage us to care for our mental well-being and the mental well-being of others

An expanding list of non-profits and businesses are joining the effort and making pledges to deliver educational tools and programs that will help change the national conversation about mental health. Over the next five years, these efforts will collectively reach more than one million Americans with particular target audiences to include military personnel, veterans and family members, students, teachers, school officials and coaches, first responders, and members of faith-based communities.

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) and American Psychiatric Foundation (APF) will build upon several programs to support the Change Direction campaign. APF has had a long-standing effective collaboration with Give an Hour to help provide care to service members. APF is also working, through its Typical or Troubled program, to train school personnel to recognize signs of mental distress among students and help refer to appropriate services if needed. Teachers and other school personnel are in a position to help, but may not know what to look for or how to help if they are concerned about a student.