Yesterday, I had the honor of representing United Way at the White House National Conference on Mental Health. This day-long conference, which included leaders from across sectors and disciplines and all walks of life, was the start of a national conversation on erasing the stigma of mental health and figuring out ways that communities can come together to make real improvements on mental health systems and supports.
Today, an estimated 45 million Americans suffer illnesses like depression, schizophrenia or post-traumatic stress syndrome. Mental illness cuts across race, ethnicity and socioeconomics. Like many others, my own family has been impacted by mental illness and the tragic consequences that often come when adequate systems and supports just don’t exist or aren’t accessible.
As part of this effort, all United Ways in the U.S. have been invited to participate by hosting community conversations on this issue and to use the learning to engage leaders in developing local action plans.
Many United Ways are working on mental health issues either as a lead issue or as a component of other strategies – whether it’s working with veterans, addressing homelessness, early childhood development and school readiness, or other education, income and health issues. Hosting conversations on mental health and leveraging that learning to galvanize action is a great way to accelerate the good work you’re already doing and play an important backbone role in your community. And, it’s a chance to be part of a major national effort.