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MENTAL HEALTH

What has made this work are…the thousands and thousands and thousands of letters and phone calls to members of Congress saying that we’ve got to do something about mental health. —Representative Tim Murphy (R-PA) on passage of HR-35

(Scroll down to take immediate action)

UPDATE 9/21: 27 mental health experts weigh in on Trump's fitness for office. 7/28: Repeal of the ACA is dead (7 attempts have now failed). All Democrats, plus GOP Sen. John McCain, Sen. Murkowski, & Sen. Collins voted NO! The ACA continues for now. 6/19: Democratic Senators are holding the floor tonight to protest the lack of hearing and debate on the ACHA, the details of which they have not even seen. 5/4: The House voted to repeal and replace the ACA. The bill must now pass the Senate and be signed by POTUS to become law. Act now (see "take action," in Healthcare). 4/21: The US Surgeon General, Dr. Murthy, was dismissed today. Known for his concerns about mental health, at a recent Seattle conference, he said, "We forget some of the oldest medicines are love and compassion." (Eversley, USA Today) Our new acting Surgeon General is Sylvia Trent-Adams, a nurse. 4/16: Prince Harry speaks out about mental health (UK Telegraph). 2/15: Americans are experiencing an unprecedented level of stress and concern about the future, including an uptick in depressive and somatic symptoms, according to an annual survey by the American Psychological Assn.

LEARN. Under ACHA, details about mental health coverage (including VA coverage) are unclear, because Democrats haven't been allowed to see the bill GOP Senators have written. We do know that major protections and coverage will be eliminated. With nearly 1 in 5 adults experiencing mental health difficulties, this issue is critically important to a large segment of our society. Those with mental health issues experience a shortened lifespan and poorer physical health, so lack of a plan to address these challenges may literally condemn people to illness and worse. Although Hillary Clinton developed a comprehensive healthcare plan which included a detailed blueprint for addressing the nation’s biggest obstacles to mental health care, Trump never spoke of his plans regarding mental health. His “plan,” described in a paragraph, called for “changes” to the nation's mental health care system. Those changes are almost here.

RESOURCES: Stressed? Suffering from anxiety? Try this (focused on Bay Area Fires, 10/17, but info. is helpful for most everyone).

Here’s an overview of the state of mental health in America with prevalence information, and access to mental health care by state. A nationwide organization, NAMI provides support for individuals suffering with mental illness, including educative groups for families of the mentally ill, which are absolutely invaluable. NAMI also shapes public policy on mental illness:

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. What started as a small group of families gathered around a kitchen table in 1979 has blossomed into the nation's leading voice on mental health. Today, we are an association of hundreds of local affiliates, state organizations and volunteers who work in your community to raise awareness and provide support and education that was not previously available to those in need.”

Mental Health America (MHA), “founded in 1909–is the nation's leading community-based nonprofit dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness and to promoting the overall mental health of all Americans…MHA has an established record of effective national and grassroots advocacy and achievement.” Find your local affiliate and learn more about their work.

The UK has prioritized mental health care across its entire population, helped, in part, by the Princes' coming forth about their pain after their mother's death. The Mental Health Foundation, is an excellent UK charity website with information about mental health problems, a free mindfulness course, stress test, and more.

Bazelon provides a comprehensive list of mental health advocacy resources across the US.

Do you know someone with mental illness who needs a lawyer? Here is a list of non-profits providing free legal services to individuals with mental disabilities in Los Angeles and the SF Bay Area (if you live outside of these areas, search on ‘mental health advocacy’ for agencies near you):

Los Angeles: Mental Health Advocacy Services provides assistance regarding special education needs, fair housing, government benefits assistance, veteran reintegration, and general impact legislation.
SF Bay Area: Law Foundation of Silicon Valley provides assistance with governmental benefits, insurance, housing rights, patient rights (incarceration, inpatient psychiatric and medication, outpatient treatment) including “educational workshops and technical assistance for mental health consumers, community groups, mental health service providers, public officials, attorneys, and staff at community-based organizations.”
Mental Health Association of Alameda County Provides free mental health advocates to support those living with severe mental illness.

MENTAL HEALTH ADVOCACY WORKS! “Thanks to the efforts of mental health advocates from across the nation, H.R. 35, the 21st Century Cures Act, was signed into law by President Obama on December 13, 2016" (reported in Mental Health America [and NAMI]). Other recent successes include the 7/6/16 passage of HR 2646 (with a House vote of 422-2!). According to NAMI, “HR 2646 strengthens community crisis response systems, so people experiencing a psychiatric crisis can get help sooner, before their condition worsens.” Read more about it here.

TAKE ACTION

(1) If you or someone you know is in immediate danger of harm to self or another person, please call 911: help is available! If you or someone you know needs immediate mental health help, please call 1-800-273-TALK, which is the National Association on Mental Illness 24 hour hotline, or text ‘NAMI’ to 741741

(2) NAMI non-crisis, informational line: 800/950-NAMI, info@nami.org, M-F 10-6 ET. Sign-up for NAMI’s action newsletter and to receive advocacy alerts. Become a mental health activist on NAMI’s 2017 legislative priorities (1/3/17).

(3) Need some help coping with post-election stress? (Who doesn't!)

(4) Regularly visit #mentalhealthreform on twitter to learn about actions being taken on mental health legislation right now (even if you're not on twitter, you can search on the hashtag).

(5) Visit and support the Depression & Bipolar Support Alliance advocacy center.

(6) Demi Lovato’s Be Vocal Speak Up campaign: 10 ways to be vocal for community mental health. “Be Vocal is a partnership between singer, songwriter and mental health advocate Demi Lovato, who is living with bipolar disorder; leading mental health advocacy organizations.”

(7) Visit your legislators to advocate for mental health priorities! Any citizen can schedule a meeting with their local and state representative. Treatment Advocacy Center’s tips for how to meet with your legislator.

(8) Does meeting in person seem like too much? Write your legislators! Tips.

(9) Still too much? Call your legislators! Who are your representatives? DC House of Representatives switchboard: 866-948-8977 Don't know your Senators’ phone number? Call 202/224-3121, put in your zip. You’ll be transferred. Shy to call? Don’t be concerned. You’ll likely be sent to voicemail. If you do reach someone, speak concisely and politely, telling them:

-you live in their district (for Representatives) or state (for Senators),
-you’re concerned about mental health policy
-and you want them to obstruct the GOP’s efforts to pass ACHA without debate

Main number for the House of Representatives 866-948-8977 and Senate 866-985-2543 in Washington, DC (in addition to your local and state Congressional reps, call the DC number when Congress is in session and/or when you feel very, very strongly and alarmed about an issue or imminent legislation).

Don't want to call? Send a free fax to your Senators from Fax Zero in just a few seconds. They send you an email to confirm.

(10) Contact Representative Tim Murphy, Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson, Senator Chris Murphy, and Senator Bill Cassidy to thank them for their work in passing H.R. 35, the 21st Century Cures Act mentioned above, under “Mental Health Advocacy Works.”

(11) Volunteer as a Court-Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) in your community to mentor an abused or neglected child or adolescent in the foster care system by meeting with them weekly and advocating for them in Court when decisions are made about custody, visitation, and where the child will ultimately live and go to school. CASAs are given power by the court system to speak for the child’s needs. Having experienced foster care predicts a number of painful mental health issues later in life, and people who’ve been in foster care are much more likely than others to become homelessness, to die early, to experience sexual assault, substance abuse, and/or to attempt suicide. Mentoring a foster child is one of the most powerful and rewarding, concrete things you can do to prevent mental illness and substance abuse in our society. CASA is an excellent organization which has improved the lives of thousands of forgotten and otherwise invisible children (and enriched the lives of their CASAs).

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Healthcare: Substance Abuse

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