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Resources, equitable community investments essential to support mental health and wellbeing


Had the Crisis Act signed into law two decades ago, my family, my community and I would be less affected. As a young woman, I struggled with depression, grew up in a family with intergenerational trauma, and lived in a community where the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department responded to conflict and crisis . Our ability to be resilient has been possible through generosity, grace and love; there was no policy to ensure that community responses to local emergencies were funded, coordinated, and available. For me, a public health approach to mental well-being requires us to address – through changing practices, policies and systems – the multiple threats that affect our ability to feel safe and cared for.

Today, we know that the mental health of our nation – and of ourselves, our families and our communities – is at risk.

In 20201 in 5 adults suffered from a mental illness and 50% of the 26 million adults who received virtual mental health services suffered from a serious mental illness. Mental illness is more common in young adults and adolescents: 1 in 3 young adults have experienced a mental illness and three million adolescents have had serious suicidal thoughts. Despite expenses more about mental disorders than any other medical condition, including for those that are institutionalized and often excluded from estimates, investment in mental well-being remains woefully insufficient.

Unemployment, economic instability, racial discrimination and stress exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic have taken a toll on our mental health. Latino adults have reported symptoms of depression almost 60% more frequently than their white counterparts, and while white adults were more likely to report stress and worry about the health of loved ones, a higher percentage of multiracial and non-Latino adults reported stress and concerns about the stigma or discrimination associated with being blamed for the spread of COVID-19.

Although there are racial and ethnic differences differences in the use of mental health services, the cost or lack of insurance coverage is often reported by all racial and ethnic groups as the main reason for not using mental health services. Compounding these gaps in access to mental health services is the painful reality that our health care providers are also not immune to threats to mental well-being. Public health workers reported instances of harassment, intimidation and threats, and more than half of public health workers reported at least one symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Because mental health requires more than resilience, resource support and equitable community investments are essential. Since climate instability, to the economy and lodging insecurity, how we respond to threats to mental health is important. In Northern California, for example, the Bay Area Regional Health Inequities Initiatives (BARHI) works with local public health departments to implement equitable recovery strategies that emphasize community mental health and healing-centered engagement as one of ten investment priorities. From Detroit to Salt Lake City, local public health officials from the Emerging Leaders in Public Health initiative are cultivating resources to tackle burnout among frontline workers, increase access to mental health services and establish organizational practices that promote emotional, psychological and social well-being. be.

Those of us who work in health philanthropy have a unique responsibility and opportunity to promote mental health as well. Beyond grants and program-related investments to support community efforts that promote mental wellness, we can streamline processes to reduce the workload of our grant-funded partners, establish practices to minimize stress work-related and demonstrate our commitment to the safety and mental well-being of the communities we serve.