Mental Health Awareness Month: How Nonprofits Are Helping Individuals in Need

In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, Philanthropy Roundtable is highlighting the innovative work of civil society in approaching one of the biggest challenges our country faces: mental illness. With one in five Americans experiencing mental illness each year, there is a significant opportunity for philanthropic leadership in helping to address the needs of these vulnerable individuals and provide support for their families.

The realities of mental illness in America are staggering:

  • 46% of Americans will meet the criteria for a diagnosable mental health condition sometime in their life, and half of those people will develop conditions by the age of 14.
  • About 3-5% of the U.S. adult population has severe or serious mental illness.
  • 30% of adult Americans with serious mental illness receive no treatment (medication or therapy).
  • 10% of Americans with a mental illness are uninsured, with limited access to treatment.
  • Between 11-20% of veterans who served in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom experience PTSD and/or other mental health conditions.
  • 1 in 5 kids has a diagnosable mental health condition.

The above realities are even more nuanced when considering that mental health issues contribute to higher rates of homelessness, hunger, substance abuse, domestic violence and other societal issues, including lower education outcomes for the next generation.

The Roundtable supports philanthropists committed to fostering overall health and well-being, including those working to address the impact mental health issues are having on individuals and communities. We work to connect funders with organizations that provide vulnerable populations access to care and other resources. From foundations such as the Hackett Family Foundation, the Rees-Jones Foundation, the Marcus Foundation and others, philanthropists are approaching mental illness in ways that are having a positive tangible impact on people’s lives.

While the mental health initiatives philanthropy supports are vast, below is a sampling of the innovative nonprofits and thought leaders who are making a difference in people’s lives all over the country:

  • Headstrong Project: The Headstrong Project is a nonprofit mental health organization providing confidential, barrier-free and stigma-free PTSD treatment to veterans, service members and family connected to their care. Headstrong’s growing clinical network focuses its capabilities across states where unmet mental health needs are highest. On average, Headstrong treats 1,400 clients per month through 275 clinicians in 15 states and Washington, D.C.
  • Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute: The Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute provides independent, nonpartisan, data-driven and trusted policy and program guidance to ensure all Texans can obtain effective, efficient behavioral health care when and where they need it. Their vision is to be the national leader in treating all people with mental health needs.
  • Stop Soldier Suicide: Stop Soldier Suicide’s mission is to reduce service member and veteran suicide using enhanced data insights, focused client acquisition and suicide-specific intervention services. Their vision is a nation where service members and veterans have no greater risk for suicide than any other American. In 2020, they served more than 700 service members and veterans and their work has reduced clients’ suicide risk by an average of 27%.
  • Treatment Advocacy Center: The Treatment Advocacy Center is a nonprofit dedicated to eliminating legal and other barriers to the timely and effective treatment of severe mental illness. The organization promotes laws, policies and practices for the delivery of psychiatric care and supports the development of innovative treatments for and research into the causes of severe and persistent psychiatric illnesses, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. In the past year, the organization was involved in passing 12 priority bills related to mental illness, including a federal bill and bills in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Missouri, Virginia and Washington.

Thought leaders and other resources related to approaches to mental health:

  • Dr. Sally Satel reviews Dr. Thomas Insel’s book “Healing: Out Path From Mental Illness to Mental Health” for The Wall Street Journal, discussing how few patients get the care they need.
  • Naomi Schaefer Riley’s op-ed in New York Post entitled “Too Many Children Are at Risk Because of Their Parents’ Mental Illness” discusses mental trauma passed on through generations.
  • DJ Jaffe’s TED Talk at the National Council for Mental Wellbeing evaluates how society may be responsible for misleading government officials into denying violence, rather than taking steps to reduce it with those who are severely mentally ill.
  • The New York Times highlighted the influence of psychiatrist E. Fuller Torrey and his research over the past 40 years into involuntary psychiatric treatment policies for people with schizophrenia and other mental illnesses
  • A report published by Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow Stephen Eide and Adjunct Fellow Carolyn D. Gorman articulates a concept to help those with serious mental health issues before, during and after crisis by focusing on a “Continuum of Care.”
  • Philanthropy Roundtable hosted a webinar discussing the effects of COVID-19 on the national economy and its relation to rising rates of diseases and deaths of despair.
  • Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow Stephen Eide wrote a New York Post op-ed entitled “NYC can be a pioneer in the treatment of the seriously mentally ill,” which considers New York City Mayor Eric Adam’s plan for the city to be more proactive in dealing with psychotic individuals.
  • A Manhattan Institute report by Isabel McDevitt, co-founder of Work Works America, writes about the homeless in America who are able and willing to work, but policy fails to address the employment-based solutions that could better serve them.

If you are interested in learning more about how Philanthropy Roundtable supports donors committed to addressing our nation’s mental health crisis, please contact Esther Larson, program director at Philanthropy Roundtable here.

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