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Policy and Advocacy

Federal Policy:  Since 1909, Mental Health America (MHA) has been the lead organization to prioritize the individual over interest groups as we advocate for legislation that affects the lives of people with mental health conditions and their families. That priority continues today, at a time when we focus on prevention, early identification and intervention, access to integrated care, and insurance parity for people with mental health conditions. Our expert staff and Public Policy Committee members produce well-researched policy statements on a wide range of issues – from civil liberties to children’s mental health – for public use. We work with policymakers to advance federal legislation, regulations, and agency activities that promote these priorities and position statements.

State Policy: MHA is the national headquarters for a network of more than 200 affiliates around the country. Our affiliates work with state and local policymakers to develop and pass laws, regulations, and policies to promote mental health. MHA and our affiliates meet through the Regional Policy council to exchange ideas about best practices and barriers to regional, state, and local policy efforts and agency activities. Our state advocacy priorities include Medicaid expansion, integrating primary and mental health care services, and building peer supports, including recovery-oriented curricula. A full list of our priorities can be found in the Policy & Advocacy section of our website

Regional Policy Council: The Regional Policy Council, or RPC, has connected national and state policy and advocacy on mental health since its inception in 2009. MHA transformed the program in 2016 and 2017 by connecting our work through the RPC to the work of the leading state health policymaker organizations – National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), National Governors Association (NGA), American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and the Council of State Governments (CSG).  RPC meetings are now held four times a year, generally at the same time as national meetings of these groups, and cover areas of interest to both state policy leaders and state-level advocates. 

The State of Mental Health in America Report: MHA’s State of Mental Health in America report identifies a common set of data indicators for mental health that gives a more complete picture of mental health status in America. The report provides data on prevalence rates of mental health problems for youth and adults, and data on access to care for.

National Advocacy Day:  Ensuring people with mental health conditions are heard, MHA hosts a Capitol Hill Day each year to bring advocates to Congress to meet with the key decision-makers. Beginning with an in-depth training session on how to advocate to members of Congress, the day culminates with in-person visits to federal legislators on Capitol Hill.

Education & Outreach

MHA Screening: Understanding your mental health and learning about where you are in your mental health is essential in ensuring you stay mentally healthy. One of the quickest and easiest ways to determine whether you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition is to take an anonymous screen. MHA has online screening tools for depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), alcohol and substance use, early psychosis, work health, as well as screenings that are youth-focused and parent-focused. After completing their screening, individuals receive immediate results, education, resources and linkage to affiliates. Along with the results of their screens, individuals provide MHA with valuable demographic and survey responses that allow us to further support our mental health policy and education efforts.

To date, depression screens account for more than half of the screens completed. Of all respondents, 67 percent scored moderate to severe for any of the conditions, and of those, 65 percent report they had never been diagnosed. These statistics demonstrate the need to promote early education and intervention. As expands, MHA will continue to explore ways to respond to the needs of screeners by adding public education and treatment information in collaboration with national partners. Our goal is to get every American screened and aware of their mental health as a way to promote recovery and reduce the time of untreated mental health problems.

Screening-to-Supports (S2S): Over 4 million individuals have explored their mental health concerns using our eight screens for mental health conditions including: depression, bipolar, anxiety, substance and alcohol use, psychosis, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Of the over 3,000 screens that are completed daily, 74 percent score moderate to severe but, of those, 68 percent have never been diagnosed. We see that many individuals are struggling but are not yet connected to resources. As we continue to build our screening program, MHA is in the process of developing an online platform to move beyond screening to connect people with the supports and services they want and need. Sign up for our email list for the latest news and updates about S2S!

May Is Mental Health Month:  Since we established May as Mental Health Month in 1949, MHA and our affiliates across the country have led the observance of Mental Health Month by reaching millions of people through the media, local events and screenings. We welcome other organizations to join us in spreading the word that mental health is something everyone should care about by using the May is Mental Health Month toolkit materials and conducting awareness activities. Download this year's Mental Health Month Toolkit by clicking here.

Minority Mental Health Month: MHA understands that mental health issues may need to be addressed with a unique lens when working with individuals and families with diverse values, beliefs, and sexual orientations, in addition to backgrounds that vary by race, ethnicity, religion, and language. That's why we've put together information to help various communities and promote awareness through public education campaigns each July.

Publications: MHA regularly produces brochures and fact sheets designed to educate different audiences on signs and symptoms of mental health conditions, tips to stay healthy, and ways to help loved ones. Additionally, MHA produces white papers on various mental health topics and our annual report, The State of Mental Health in the America. These materials are available on our website,, and can also be purchased in print from our online store.

MHA Annual Conference: Each year, MHA's Annual Conference brings together affiliates, consumers, providers, family members and advocates from across the country to talk about important and emerging mental health issues. The 2019 Mental Health America Annual Conference, taking place in Washington, DC from June 13-15, 2019, is themed Dueling Diagnoses: Mental Health and Chronic Conditions in Children and Adults.

Clifford Beers Society: The Clifford Beers Society connects leaders within the national mental health advocacy community who share a belief that we must all fight to improve conditions for those affected by mental health disorders. Members are committed to prevention for all, early identification and intervention for those at risk, and comprehensive integrated health and behavioral services with recovery as the goal. For more information about joining the Society, click here.

Back to School: MHA’s Back to School Toolkit - developed each year and released in mid-August in anticipation of the start of the new school year - provides free resources, tools, tips, and information for parents, teachers, and youth on early identification themes and Before Stage 4 messaging.

Life on Campus: Mental health issues are on the rise on college campuses across the country. In response, MHA created Life on Campus. Life on Campus is a year-round program MHA actively promotes in the fall and spring semesters as an education effort with web-based information for college-aged youth. 

Mental Health in the Media:  Mental Health America is changing the way that the media talks about mental health. Mental health conditions affect one in five adults in the United States every year, and there should be more emphasis on early intervention to ensure that they can enjoy the highest quality of life possible. One of our main priorities is to encourage conversations about mental health and foster an environment free from stigma and discrimination. MHA proactively works to provide comprehensive, accurate information about mental health by cultivating media relationships and working to share mental health news via traditional and new media channels.

Information and Referral Services

The MHA National Certified Peer Specialist (MHA NCPS) Certification: The MHA National Certified Peer Specialist (MHA NCPS) certification recognizes peers with the lived experience, training, and job experience to work alongside healthcare teams. The certification is designed to exceed the standards used in public behavioral health around the country. A major purpose of the certification is to meet the needs of private health insurers and private practitioners. Expansion of peer support into the private sector will open up new career paths and opportunities, which have been previously unexplored, for thousands of peer supporters.

The Center for Peer Support: MHA's Center for Peer Support has the latest information and promotional materials on peer support, certification, peer-run programs, support groups, and current research on the efficacy of peer support.

It's My Life - Social Self-Directed Care:  MHA developed a highly innovative intervention called It’s My Life: Social Self-Directed Care that combines the evidence-based practices of Peer Support and Psychiatric Rehabilitation and the emerging best practices of Self-Directed Care and Life Coaching into an integrated skill and support strategy to help people build networks of friends and intimate relationships.

The MHA Network: With over 200 affiliates in 41 states, MHA is committed to bringing direct services and advocacy to communities around the country. MHA affiliates bring together mental health consumers, caregivers, advocates and service providers for collaboration and action to inform, support and enable mental wellness, and emphasize recovery from mental illness. They provide public education, information and referral, support groups, rehabilitation services as well as socialization and housing services to those confronting mental health problems and their loved ones. Affiliates provide family advocate services to parents of children with serious emotional disturbances, mentorship or peer support for adults recovering from mental illnesses, and professional education to those working in the mental health field. They also strive to influence public policy to assure access to fair and effective treatment for the millions of Americans suffering from mental health conditions. As the national organization, Mental Health America provides technical assistance and other resources to assist affiliates in their service efforts around their communities, ensuring that Before Stage 4 (B4Stage4) efforts reach every area of the United States.

Consumer Advocacy: Mental Health America provides technical assistance to other community organizations, specifically consumer groups. MHA staff members advise these organizations on best practices, including how to form a nonprofit board of directors. Additionally, MHA on an ongoing basis releases white papers to help consumer advocates in their work. 

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