Franklin James Cook

Blogger Issues Call to Action for “Mental Health New Deal”

In Advocacy, Mental Illness, Policy on January 14, 2009 at 12:16 am

ORIGINAL POSTMichael Sigman–Chairman of the Board of the Wright Institute of Los Angeles, a postgraduate clinical training institute that provides psychotherapy to economically disadvantaged people–started the New Year with a piece on Huffington Post titled “Time for a Mental Health New Deal.”

America’s economic health is inextricably intertwined with its citizens’ psychological well-being. The very language we use to describe our financial plight — insanity, depression, panic, insecurity, trauma … To give short shrift to mental health programs would geometrically compound the insanity; over and above the humanitarian cost, the financial losses in productivity and from increased crime rates are incalculable.

Sigman recommends a decisive, grassroots response to people’s mental-health-care needs in America:

“We’ve got to organize and lobby hard for a mental health ‘New Deal,’ in which the Feds immediately restore funds for decimated state and local treatment programs, and then create a national mental health safety net so no one falls through the cracks … Let’s take a page from Obama’s grass roots Presidential campaign. Start or join a group at the local level to lobby the president-elect and incoming HHS Secretary Tom Daschle. Bombard your legislators with emails and phone calls. If you’re not an activist, become one. If you can give even a few dollars, donate to a mental health-oriented charity or non-profit.

Yes, these proposals will cost more money and mean more borrowing. But if we don’t act now, the tragic fallout will reverberate throughout society for decades.

By callling for action to promote a Mental Health New Deal, Sigman has highlighted the need to build political will for the next phase of mental-health-care reform now that mental health parity legislation has passed Congress. The importance of building political was clearly articulated when the national suicide prevention movement began to gain traction in 2001 with the publication of the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention, which states

For any preventive action to go forward, three ingredients are necessary: a knowledge base, the public support for change, and a social strategy to accomplish change. [Emphasis added.]

SPNAC readers can refer to the Suicide Prevention Action Network’s (SPAN USA) Legislative and Media Action Center to learn how they can help build the political will to advance suicide prevention in America and in their home state.

[The  abridged URL for this post is  http://tinyurl.com/MH-NewDeal .]

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