By Kelly Colopy, MPP, Director, Long Beach Health Department
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, which brings a heightened awareness and opportunity to support the mental and emotional health of those in our communities experiencing a mental illness. As individuals and families, as well as communities and organizations, we are learning that we all know someone, often close to us, who has experienced some level of mental illness in their lifetime. Nearly 1 in 5 adults (43 million) in the United States experiences a mental illness each year. The impacts of mental illness diagnosis vary widely; some have serious impacts on the ability to perform major life activities. Access to treatment has improved with the passage of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 and under the Affordable Care Act in 2010, yet more capacity for treatment is needed. The conversations are increasing at the systems level as we work to grow healthy supportive environments and increase access to mental health resources in our community. Yet, at an individual and community level, the conversations continue to be difficult. The stigma, while lessened, still remains.