May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Statement from former HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Mental Health Month

Last year, 45.9 million adult Americans had a mental illness, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) National Survey on Drug Use and Health. These conditions affect individuals, their families and loved ones, and communities. Unfortunately, many individuals do not receive needed services and treatment. In fact, estimates show that one-fifth to one-third of the uninsured are people with mental and substance use disorders. People with mental illnesses also experience disparities in income, employment, education, homelessness, full community participation, and most tragically – life expectancy. Outdated misperceptions, myths, and prejudice lead to many of these outcomes.

Mental Health Month was established in 1949 to increase awareness of the importance of mental health and wellness in Americans’ lives, and to celebrate recovery from mental illness. We know that mental health is essential for a person’s overall health; prevention works; treatment is effective; and people can recover from mental disorders and live full and productive lives.

Over the past 20 years, SAMHSA and others in the Department of Health and Human Services and across the federal government, the public health community, and the general public have increased understanding of the prevention and treatment of mental health problems. These efforts have significantly improved the outlook for those affected by mental illnesses.

Mental Health Month gives all of us a valuable opportunity to celebrate the tremendous strides this nation has made in promoting mental health and increasing the public’s knowledge that effective services and support are available.

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