Nearly 44 million American adults, and millions of children, experience mental health conditions each year, including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and post-traumatic stress.

“Although we have made progress expanding mental health coverage and elevating the conversation about mental health, too many people still do not get the help they need,” according to the proclamation of Mental Health Awareness Month issued by President Barack Obama.

“Our Nation is founded on the belief that we must look out for one another—and whether it affects our family members, friends, co-workers, or those unknown to us—we do a service for each other when we reach out and help those struggling with mental health issues.”

The mental health stigma

The president urges American to eliminate the stigma associated with mental illness and encourage those living with mental health conditions to get the help they need.

The Affordable Care Act requires insurance companies to cover mental health and substance use disorder services in individual and small group markets, and expands mental health and substance use disorder parity policies, which are estimated to help more than 60 million Americans.

The ACA also provided more than $100 million in funding to community health centers, which have expanded behavioral health services for nearly 900,000 people nationwide over the past 2 years.

“Mental health should be treated as part of a person's overall health, and we must ensure individuals living with mental health conditions can get the treatment they need,” said Obama.

American Psychological Association will host events

In its observance of the month, the American Psychological Association (APA) will focus on barriers to care.

Special events include:

Thursday, May 5: APA Hosts Discussion Focusing on Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day

APA's Office on Children, Youth and Families will host a discussion and viewing of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day webcast. Families, service providers from community-based organizations focused on children’s mental health and other members of the public will discuss the barriers families encounter accessing children’s mental health care and ways to overcome those barriers.

Friday, May 13: “Speaking of Psychology” Podcast – Surviving a relationship with a narcissist 

Narcissists can be found in our offices, politics or even in our own homes. Narcissism is a psychological disorder but it can be hard to know exactly how to recognize it and build a relationship with a narcissist. In this episode, psychologist and author Ramani Durvasula, PhD, talks about how social media is shining a light on narcissism and offers insight and research into how to survive a relationship with someone who suffers from the disorder.

May 16-22: Older Adult Mental Health Week

APA’s Office on Aging will work with the National Coalition on Mental Health and Aging to bring attention to the mental health needs of older adults. Useful resources for providers and the public include: What Mental Health Providers Should Know About Working with Older Adults, APA Family Caregivers Briefcase and blog posts on aging issues. May is also Older Americans Month.  

Tuesday, May 17: International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia 

Focusing on mental health and well-being, APA’s Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Concerns will recognize International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia with social media posts highlighting its various resources on issues related to the mental health of LGBT communities.

Tuesday, May 24: Congressional Briefing on Psychology’s Role in Eliminating Health Disparities among Boys and Men

Boys and men in lower socioeconomic and ethnic/minority communities have some of the worst health outcomes in the country. Psychology can help in addressing these health disparities and the needs of underrepresented boys and men. This briefing will focus on key findings of the APA Working Group on Health Disparities in Boys and Men, including incidences of violence, trauma and substance use. Participants will also discuss public policy recommendations, including legislation and research.