“Mental Health for US” Launched Ahead of 2020 Election Season

Nonpartisan initiative from leading organizations shines spotlight on mental health and addiction

Washington, D.C. – Eight of the nation’s most prominent mental health and addiction organizations united today to launch Mental Health for US, a landmark nonpartisan initiative designed to elevate mental health and addiction in policy conversations during the upcoming election season.

Nearly one in five Americans live with mental illness and one in 12 live with addiction. In 2017, 70,237 Americans died from a drug overdose. Every day, an estimated 17 veterans die by suicide, and more than 46% of homeless adults within the U.S. live with severe mental illness. By educating the public on the severity of America’s health crisis, Mental Health for US seeks to be a catalyst in effectively and holistically addressing mental health and addiction to reduce suicide and overdose deaths.

The movement launched at The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s 10th Annual Advocacy Forum by former U.S. Representative and co-chair of the Mental Health for US initiative Patrick J. Kennedy (D-R.I.). Former U.S. Senator Gordon H. Smith (R-OR), a long-time mental health advocate, will also serve as co-chair.

The eight coalition leaders for Mental Health for US are:

  • The Kennedy Forum
  • The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
  • The Jed Foundation
  • Mental Health America
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness
  • National Council for Behavioral Health
  • One Mind
  • Thomas Scattergood Behavioral Health Foundation

“Nationwide, families are being ripped apart by deaths of despair from suicides and overdoses,” said Rep. Kennedy, founder of The Kennedy Forum. “This election cycle, as all eyes are on policymakers, we want to unite the American people in demanding legislative action from our government to adequately address the worst public health crisis of our time.”

Mental Health for US presents a comprehensive policy platform with three main focus areas:

  • Prevention: Stakeholders on the local, state, and national levels must unite to foster healthy environments for all Americans that support mental health as a part of overall health.
  • Access and Intervention: All people with mental illness, including substance use disorders and eating disorders, deserve timely access to affordable treatment and recovery services that treat the mind and the body.
  • Recovery: Recovery from mental health and substance use disorders is not one-size-fits-all. A wide variety of recovery services, treatments, and supports should be available to those who need them.

Voters are encouraged to join Mental Health for US by signing a statement of support, sharing their stories, distributing resources and tools to encourage active civic engagement, and attending grassroots events to engage candidates. The first events will take place in Iowa and New Hampshire in the fall of 2020. Organizations and policymakers are also encouraged to get involved—resources include communications toolkits, policy and issue briefs, and more.

“The suicide rate has skyrocketed over the past 20 years because mental health and substance use disorders often go undetected and undertreated,” said Sen. Smith. “Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in America. Now more than ever, we need our government leaders to stand up and champion systemic change. We have to make our voices heard.”

Later this year, Mental Health for US will provide all presidential candidates polling 1% or above in a national poll tracked by RealClearPolitics the opportunity to get on the record about these issues by responding to a mental health and addiction survey. Candidate responses will be published verbatim on the initiative’s website.

In addition to co-chairs Kennedy and Smith, the Mental Health for US bipartisan honorary advisory board includes:

  • Former U.S. Rep. Mary Bono
  • Former U.S. Under Secretary of the Army Patrick J. Murphy
  • Former U.S. Rep. Jim Ramstad
  • Former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher, MD, PhD

Initial champion sponsors of the Mental Health for US initiative include The Kennedy Forum, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and Kaiser Permanente.

Any organization that supports the initiative’s mission is welcome to join as a member. In addition to the founding leaders, Mental Health for US coalition members include:

  • Active Minds
  • Advocates for Opioid Recovery
  • Anxiety and Depression Association of America
  • Black Girls Smile
  • Black Mental Health Alliance
  • Bring Change to Mind
  • Center on Addiction + Partnership for Drug-Free Kids
  • Child Mind Institute
  • Columbia University Department of Psychiatry
  • Dil to Dil: Heart to Heart
  • DMAX Foundation
  • Peg’s Foundation
  • Psych Hub
  • Project HEAL
  • Shatterproof
  • Stephanie Becker Fund
  • The Voices Project

If your organization is interested in joining, contact info@mentalhealthforus.net.

Watch a livestream video of the Mental Health for US announcement here.

About Mental Health for US

Mental Health for US is a nonpartisan educational initiative focused on elevating mental health and addiction in policy conversations by empowering grassroots advocates and improving candidate and policymaker health literacy. The initiative is powered by a coalition of stakeholder groups from around the country dedicated to uniting the American people to make systemic, long-term change with civic engagement tools and resources. For more information, visit www.mentalhealthforus.net.

Media Contact
Erin Buckley

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