SAMHSA Provides Toolkit for Communities about Mental Health
This summer, after President Obama’s call for a national conversation about mental health, ten cities planned to host community events to begin the dialogue. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration provided these community events with a toolkit in order to facilitate an effective discourse about mental health issues facing society. According to a SAMHSA news report, these events would aim to “reduce concerns about openly discussing mental illnesses in the community, improve access to services . . . and set an agenda of changes that will improve and complement existing local resources” (2013).
The first two cities to have their events were Sacramento, CA, and Albuquerque, NM. Both these events were organized and supported by organizations like Creating Community Solutions (CCS), Everyday Democracy, America Speaks, the National Alliance on Mental Illness and United Way.
In Sacramento, the event featured Mayor Kevin Johnson, Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA), and representatives of the National Football League (NFL), as well as SAMHSA’s Regional Administrators. Due to social media recruitment and the hard work of the community organizers, the turnout of young people was exceptional. SAMHSA’s report states that “Thirty percent of the 350 attendees were between the ages of fourteen and twenty-four” (2013). Additionally, 48 percent of all people in attendance had personal experience with mental health issues and 66 percent had a family member or friend with mental health issues.
In Albuquerque, outreach teams focused on diversifying the event as much as people. Forty-eight percent of attendees were Latino/Hispanic, 69 percent indicated that they belonged to two or more races, and 17 percent were adolescents between the ages of seventeen and twenty-four. The mental health statistics at this event were slightly more than in Sacramento; 53 percent of attendees had personal experience with mental health issues and 71 percent had family or friends with mental health issues.
While the community conversation in Sacramento was a one-time event, Albuquerque plans to continue the dialogue with several events spanning through this fall. Other cities that are scheduled to host events are Kansas City, MO, Birmingham, AL, Washington, DC, and Akron, OH.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2013). Community conversations on mental health seek solutions. SAMHSA News, 21(4).