Congressional Democrats Hold Mental Health Training for Members & Staff

Dec 12, 2013 Issues: Mental Health

(Washington, D.C.) Today, Reps. Grace F. Napolitano (CA-32), Paul Tonko (NY-20), Ron Barber (AZ-02), Tim Ryan (OH-13), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Bobby Scott (VA-03), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Mike Thompson (CA-05), Elizabeth Esty (CT-05), and Jackie Speier (CA-14) co-hosted a mental health training administered by the House Office of Employee Assistance (HOEA) for Members of Congress and their staff in advance of the one year anniversary of the tragic shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

“We have made positive strides in mental health in 2013, and we must continue to build on this momentum and eliminate stigma,” said Rep. Grace Napolitano. “Mental illness knows no boundaries, affects all segments of our society, regardless of race, class, or gender. By educating ourselves and our staff, we are creating healthier workplaces and ensuring that we can be prepared in the event of crises. I sincerely thank all of my colleagues and their staff for participating in the training, and in our effort to raise mental health awareness by speaking out and bringing light to a long neglected issue. It is critical that everyone – elected officials, mental health professionals, and the general public – be part of the conversation, become properly informed and educated about mental health. We can prevent tragedies and save lives through educating people on the warning signs of mental health issues, connecting them with available resources, and encouraging them to seek help.”

“Much work remains to be done to improve mental health care in our country,” said Rep. Paul Tonko. “Whether it’s improving access or delivery of care, removing the stigma that comes from seeking help, or simply raising awareness, we have many issues that can only be successfully tackled in a bipartisan fashion.”

“An estimated 1 in 5 adults experiences a mental illness in any given year, so this type of training is beneficial for everyone,” said Rep. Ron Barber. “Most mental illnesses are treatable and this event gives people some of the tools they need to help a person in need get assistance. And it could help identify individuals who are a danger to themselves or others.”

“"Mental health affects every aspect of one's life – from physical health to one's ability to succeed in school, at work, and in society,” said Rep. Bobby Scott. “It is important that we both educate ourselves about mental illness and ensure that our nation's health policies include a full spectrum of care services for mental health disorders. The reality of the situation is that most families in the United States are affected by mental illness in some capacity. You can look at the recent tragedy involving a member of the Virginia State Senate and his son who was left untreated for mental health problems. That is the reason we are having this training today – even politicians such as Members of Congress and members of their staff are not immune to mental health challenges any more than we are immune to cancer or heart attacks. This training represents a small step towards making sure that all Americans understand the full implications of mental health by raising awareness and encouraging others to better identify and more effectively respond to the mental health issues facing millions of Americans.”

“Today’s Mental Health training adds to our continued fight to eliminate the stigma associated with mental illness,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee. “As a psychiatric social worker by profession, I know how important quality mental health care is to our families, our workplaces, and our communities.”

“Educating ourselves on how vital mental health is to a quality life is critical,” said Rep. Jackie Speier. “People who suffer with mental illness must be treated with respect and compassion. Sometimes mental illness is identified yet ignored. We need to see it as less of a stigma and more as a disease that deserves treatment. Learning what those signs are and increased training on the matter will go a long way toward keeping us all safe.”

Today's training provided information on how to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental illness and stress factors. Attendees learned what to do in a crisis situation and how to locate appropriate mental health resources. The training, conducted by licensed mental health professionals through HOEA, focused on how to properly address mental health care in the workplace.

If you or someone you know needs help, call the SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).