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Mental Health Caucus Educates Lawmakers During Mental Health Awareness Month

June 1, 2011
Press Release

Throughout May, the Congressional Mental Health Caucus educated members of congress and their staff on mental health issues as part of awareness-raising efforts taking place across the country for National May Mental Health Awareness Month.

“Mental health affects the well-being of our families, the strength of our military, and the growth of our economy,” said Rep. Grace F. Napolitano, Co-Chair of the Congressional Mental Health Caucus. “It is a critical issue that has been held back by stigma for far too long. By continuing to educate our fellow members of congress, we join others across the country in breaking this silence and supporting a better system for mental health.”

“It is fitting that we mark Mental Health Month in May, as we celebrate Memorial Day and our Armed Forces,” said fellow Co-Chair Rep. Tim Murphy. “As a growing number of servicemen and women return from duty with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), these are becoming the invisible wounds of war. I’m extremely proud Congress was able to pass an amendment to last week’s Defense Authorization bill for 2012 that would greatly improve access to care for our soldiers suffering from PTSD and TBI. The Mental Health Caucus has taken great strides to educate Congress and the public about the critical importance of properly caring for mental illness, and I look forward to working with co-chair Napolitano to ensure our military and all Americans are able get the care they need.”

On May 12, the Caucus hosted a briefing with top military officials and mental health professionals to educate congressional members and staff on the latest mental health issues facing the armed services, including post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, and suicide prevention.

On May 24, the Caucus organized a visit to Bethesda Naval Hospital’s Traumatic Brain Injury Unit, where participants learned from doctors and service members about the brain injuries that have been diagnosed in more than 30,000 veterans in 2010 alone.

On May 26, the Caucus hosted a comprehensive “Mental Health First Aid” workshop, which taught participants the warning signs of mental illness, and explained what mental illness is like for those suffering and what we can do to help them.

“These are conversations we should be having every day, not just during Mental Health Awareness Month,” Napolitano said. “All of our families are touched in some way, and by talking about mental health we can finally get the issue out in the open and begin finding the necessary solutions.”

Background:

·        May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, a time when groups across the country hold rallies and events to draw attention to mental health.

·        One out of four Americans suffers from a mental health issue (2005 Harvard Study)

·        State mental health programs were cut nationally by 4 percent in 2009, 5 percent in 2010, and are estimated to be cut by more than 8% in 2011 (Stateline.org July 19 2010)

·        Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for youth ages 15-24 (National Institute of Mental Health report)

·        More than 90 percent of people who die from suicide have a diagnosable mental disorder, commonly a depressive disorder or a substance-abuse disorder (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention)

·        70% of adolescents with mental health problems do not receive care (Journal of Adolescent Health, volume 38)

·        Mental disorders cost the U.S. economy $193 billion in lost earnings each year (American Journal of Psychiatry, May 2008)

National Mental Health Crisis Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK

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