Public Education and Prevention

Each year, about 1 in 5 Americans will experience a mental health condition. Yet, members of the US public largely remain ignorant about the signs and symptoms of mental illness. This lack of awareness—along with the stigma attached to seeking help—often prevents people who need treatment from getting appropriate care.

DBSA supports public policies that raise awareness of mental illness, encourage prevention, and teach Americans how to reach out and assist someone who may be experiencing a mental health emergency.

Help support the following to increase public education and prevention:

Mental Health First Aid Act

The Mental Health First Aid Act of 2013 (S 153/HR 274) authorizes $20 million in grants to fund Mental Health First Aid training programs around the country. Participants would be trained in recognizing the symptoms of common mental illnesses and addiction disorders, de-escalating crisis situations safely, and initiating timely referral to mental health and substance abuse resources available in the community. Ultimately, the goal of the legislation is to improve Americans’ mental health, reduce stigma around mental illness, help people who may be at risk of suicide or self-harm, and refer those in crisis to appropriate treatment. The Mental Health First Aid Act (S 153/HR 274) was introduced in the House by Congressman Ron Barber (D-AZ) and in the Senate by Senators Mark Begich (D-AK) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) with 9 bipartisan cosponsors.

Call to Action: Ask your legislators to co-sponsor this act.

Mental Illness Awareness and Improvement Act

This legislation (S 689) reauthorizes and improves programs administered by both the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services related to awareness, prevention, and early identification of mental health conditions, and the promotion of linkages to appropriate services for children and youth. It includes a new federal Mental Health Awareness Training program modeled on the Mental Health First Aid Act. S 689 also reauthorizes important federal programs such as the Garrett Lee Smith suicide prevention programs for states and college campuses. S 689 was reported favorably out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee and received the support of 95 senators when it was attached as an amendment to a gun violence prevention bill still pending before the Senate.

Call to Action: Ask your senators to proceed forward with S 689 as a stand-alone or as part of a vehicle of another moving bill. Ask your representatives to introduce the companion legislation.

Prevention and Public Health Fund

Enacted under the Affordable Care Act, this $14.5 billion fund will provide critical resources and support to national, state, and local prevention-focused initiatives over the next 10 years. Programs supported by the PPHF span the range of health care prevention, from immunization services to anti-obesity initiatives and more. Most importantly for DBSA members, monies from the PPHF support Garrett Lee Smith Act suicide prevention activities; integration of behavioral health and primary care services; Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) activities; Mental and Behavioral Health Education and Training Grants for training programs in social work and psychology; and numerous state/local activities focused on mental health. To see a list of PPHF-financed initiatives in your state, visit the Trust for America’s Health website. The Trust for America’s Health has also published a number of advocacy materials in support of the PPHF.

Call to Action: Ask your legislators to preserve funding for PPHF in the budget.

SAMHSA-Financed Activities

Each year, a number of line items in the SAMHSA budget portfolio are dedicated to prevention and public education activities. View the latest budget materials from SAMHSA on the administration’s website. SAMHSA prevention activities include:

    • Youth Violence Prevention: The Safe Schools/Healthy Students (SS/HS) Initiative is a discretionary grant program that seeks to create healthy learning environments which help students thrive, succeed in school, and build healthy relationships.
    • National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative: The NCTSI provides funding for a national network of grantees known as the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) to develop and promote effective community practices for children and adolescents exposed to a wide array of traumatic events. The NCTSN provides training and technical support on intervention approaches to reduce the mental, emotional, and behavioral effects of traumatic events on children/adolescents and their families.
    • Project LAUNCH: Project LAUNCH implements evidence-based practices that promote and enhance the wellness of young children by increasing grantees’ ‟ capacities to develop infrastructure and implement prevention/promotion strategies necessary to promote wellness for young children.” Project LAUNCH focuses on children from birth through age eight.
    • Primary and Behavioral Health Care Integration: This initiative addresses the increased rates of morbidity and mortality among adults with serious mental illness, due in large part to elevated incidence and prevalence of cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and dyslipidemia. Many of these health conditions are preventable through routine health promotion activities. The program supports the coordination and integration of primary care services into publicly-funded community behavioral health settings.
    • Suicide prevention programs: These SAMHSA-financed programs include Garrett Lee Smith youth suicide prevention and campus suicide prevention, the national suicide lifeline, the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, and American Indian/Alaska Natives suicide prevention.

Call to Action: Ask your legislators to preserve and strengthen funding for these SAMHSA activities.

National Prevention Week

National Prevention Week is a SAMHSA-supported annual health observance dedicated to increasing public awareness of, and action around, substance abuse and mental health issues. This week-long observance is an opportunity to join with other individuals, organizations, and coalitions in your community to promote prevention efforts, educate others about behavioral health issues, and create and strengthen community partnerships.

Call to Action: We encourage you to visit SAMHSA’s website to learn more about National Prevention Week and to get involved.