Mental Health America

MHA is the nation’s leading community-based nonprofit dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness and to promoting the overall mental health of all Americans.

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$4.4M

Annual Revenue

79%

Spent On Programs

6%

CEO Compensation

Advocacy

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Awareness

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Direct Service

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Private Sector Collaboration

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Policy Legislation

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Research

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Financials

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Management

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About Mental Health America

Mental Health America (MHA) was founded in 1909 by former psychiatric patient Clifford Beers. Beers was a graduate of Yale and a Wall Street financier who attempted suicide during his first episode of bipolar disorder. For three years, he was a patient in both public and private institutions. He suffered horrific abuse from his caretakers, including being placed in a straightjacket for 21 consecutive nights. Once released, he teamed up with philosopher William James and psychiatrist Adolf Meyer to improve attitudes towards mental illness, advance services available to those living with a mental illness, and to work towards the prevention of mental illnesses and overall promotion of mental health.

Mental Health America provides a variety of programs and initiatives that work towards promoting mental health, preventing mental disorders, and successfully managing and treating mental illness. They work holistically, using advocacy, public policy, and education and outreach to further their goals. They are a renowned organization that has been featured in numerous publications and broadcasts including Politico, NPR, and the Washington Post.


Why We Chose to Feature This Organization

Mental Health America is an established and well-respected organization whose work is versatile yet effective. It all centers on their “B4Stage4” philosophy, which is the belief that mental illness should be treated in its early stages and well before they reach crisis levels, just like how we treat other diseases such as cancer and diabetes. Mental illness is common and generally treatable, and the sooner people can get help the better.

It was difficult for us to keep their report a decent length, as they work within every Simply Virtuous category: they provide direct services to those with mental illness as well as their families, produce and support research, help shape and promote effective policies, partner with both the private sector and the non-profit sector (including another SV organization, the National Council on Aging), advocate on behalf of policies as well as provide advocates with tools that they need to be effective, and they generate awareness and dispel common myths surrounding mental illness. For the sake of this report, we will focus on their research and policy efforts as well as the direct services that they provide to those in need.

Direct Service

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Policy & Legislature

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Research

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Financials

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Management

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Mental Health Screening Tools

In order to increase preventative care and early intervention treatment, MHA provides an online screening tool for common mental illnesses including depression, anxiety, bipolar, eating disorders, psychosis, PTSD, addiction, as well as specific tests for parents, youth, and workplace health. The screen is not a diagnostic instrument, but rather a tool to help individuals reflect on their mental health and easily share their findings with their physician or healthcare provider.

The screenings ask participants if they have been bothered by 7-15 problems in the past two weeks, and if so, how often. The problems described relate to symptoms of the disease that they are screening for. For example, the depression screening asks how often participants experience little interest or pleasure in doing things, how often they feel tired or have little energy, and if they have experienced poor appetite or overeating. Once completed, participants are invited to share demographic information such as their zip code, gender, race/ethnicity, age, income, health insurance status, health conditions, and what steps they plan on taking after the screening. MHA uses these responses to gain insight into the earliest stages of mental illness so that they can help design better treatment programs and provide better resources to those who are seeking help.

Participants are then taken to a results and "next steps" page. A total score is tallied, and an interpretation is offered. The next steps depend on the result, but they include monitoring symptoms, seeing a physician, and sharing your findings with someone you trust. MHA then provides information regarding to the illness. Topics range from how to treat it, what prescriptions are available and how they work, the outlook of the illness, where to find others who experience similar feelings, and apps that are available that users can use to keep a mood journal, meditate, and even talk to a live person who will listen to them with compassion. This screening is a great tool for those who are concerned with their mental health and want to gain a deeper insight into what options are available to them.

MHA works alongside policymakers, advocates, mental health practitioners, and scientists to draft policy recommendations that promote prevention and mitigation of mental illness, early identification and intervention for those at risk, integrated health and behavioral health services, and recovery. They have written over 70 position statements on a variety of topics and subjects including “Access to Medications”, “Early Identification of Mental Health Issues in Young People”, “In Support of the Insanity Defense”, “Health Care Reform”, and “The Federal Government’s Responsibilities for Mental Health Services”, which we will summarize below.

Position Statement 14: The Federal Government’s Responsibilities for Mental Health Services

As we’ve learned from our TAC report, the deinstitutionalization of mental health treatment was meant to be replaced with community-based care, however these facilities are few in numbers, and the ones that are available are usually inadequate. This is especially true for Americans who live in rural areas or urban centers, where there are often no effective mental health services available. Treatments that are available are generally focused on serving those who are in the midst of a crisis. As a society, we must add preventative screenings and early treatments to our mental health repertoire so that the crisis stage can be avoided.

MHA believes that the federal government should increase funding and partner with state governments, healthcare providers, advocates, and people in treatment as well as their families to increase the promotion, prevention, screening, and treatment of mental health treatments. In general, MHA recommends that the federal government enact policies which would:

  • Increase effective and efficient services through reforms in healthcare and behavioral health
  • Strengthen federal laws which protect individual rights, especially within the realm of the criminal justice system and mental hospitals. Increase support for the “Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness” program
  • Increase funding for safety net services such as food, housing, and career services
  • Strengthen federal laws which address forms of discrimination against those with mental illness. Provide clarity on the requirements of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, and perform audits on both private and public insurance companies to ensure compliance with such acts
  • Continue funding the Medicaid expansion and increase funding for grants which provide mental health services
  • Build on the Prevention and Public Health Fund of the ACA to increase prevention efforts
  • Improve quality reporting systems for healthcare providers, systems, and insurance plans
  • Promote interagency cooperation in order to focus on prevention and early intervention
  • Fund research in mental health
  • Coordinate between different programs to provide technical assistance to states implementing innovative programs

State of Mental Health in America 2018

Starting in 2014, MHA has published an annual "State of Mental Health" report which ranks states based on their mental health policies and procedures. The aim of the report is to provide policymakers and program planners with a better understanding of how many adults and youth have mental health and substance abuse issues, who has access to insurance in general, who has access to insurance that adequately covers mental health costs, who has access to mental health care, and which states have the most barriers to receiving mental health care.

In 2018, MHA found that 18% of adults, or 43 million Americans, have a mental health condition. Nearly half of these adults also have a co-occurring substance abuse disorder. Unfortunately, the majority (56%) of adults with a mental illness did not receive treatment. When looking at youth statistics, the rates of severely depressed youth have increased from 5.9% to 8.2% in a five-year period, and over 1.7 million with major depressive episodes did not receive treatment.

MHA found that overall, when looking for a low prevalence of mental illness and a high rate of access to care for both adults and youth, Massachusetts, South Dakota, Minnesota, Vermont, and Connecticut scored best. The worst performing states were Idaho, Indiana, Arizona, Mississippi, and Nevada. To determine the overall prevalence of mental illness, MHA measured and ranked states based on the following categories: adults with any mental illness, adults with alcohol dependence and illicit drugs use, adults with serious thoughts of suicide, youth with at least one major depressive episode, youth with alcohol dependence and illicit drugs use, and youth with severe major depressive episodes. They found that states with the lowest prevalence of mental illness include South Dakota, Hawaii, Georgia, North Dakota, and Texas. States with the highest prevalence include Indiana, Rhode Island, Colorado, New Hampshire, and Oregon. When it comes to access to health insurance and mental health treatment, Vermont, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Maine, and Connecticut perform best, while Nevada, Alabama, Texas, South Carolina, and Mississippi perform the worst.

Management

Mental Health America

Paul Gionfriddo

President & CEO

Experience and Education
  • Author of Losing Tim: How Our Health and Education Systems Failed My Son with Schizophrenia
  • Executive Director at Palm Beach County Community Health Alliance
  • Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from Wesleyan University
Compensation
$225,000

Mental Health America

Erin Wallace

Chief Communications Officer

Experience and Education
  • National Field Director at SEIU Americans for Health Care Project
  • Bachelor of Arts in International Relations and Affairs from American University
Compensation
$106,000

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