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On 100th Anniversary, Mental Health America Declares "It's Time for Mental Health"

Impact of Economy, Vet Difficulties Demonstrate Urgency; Advances in Treatments, New Policies Present Opportunities

Alexandria, Va. Embargoed for Release: February 19, 2009 at 10:00 a.m. EST /PRNewswire/ — Mental Health America, the country's oldest and leading nonprofit dedicated to helping all Americans live mentally healthier lives, today called for action on urgent challenges facing the country declaring, "It's Time for Mental Health."

Founded a century ago today, Mental Health America pointed to the negative impact of the economic crisis on families' mental health, and the difficulties faced by thousands of soldiers and returning servicemen and women who are still living with the trauma of war.

Mental Health America urged business and elected leaders to recognize the importance of mental health and invest in programs and policies so it is integral to overall health.

"We possess the knowledge and techniques that can help millions of Americans manage threats to their mental health, stay resilient and live healthy and productive lives," said David Shern, Ph.D., President and CEO of Mental Health America. "But they are not reaching the people who need them most. We cannot and should not wait for another time of trauma and tragedy to make them available. It's time for mental health."

Founded in 1909 by Clifford W. Beers, a young businessman who experienced firsthand the treatment of individuals with a mental illness, Mental Health America (then called the National Committee for Mental Hygiene) was the first association of its kind and the beginning of what we now know as the organized mental health movement in America.

In any given year, over 60 million adult Americans have a mental health condition and twenty percent of children have a mental health condition serious enough to hinder their ability to learn. Mental health and substance abuse problems are among the most chronic and disabling of all medical conditions, driving up health costs and destroying employee productivity and school achievement. People with serious mental illnesses die on average 25 years earlier than the rest of the population.

But over two-thirds of adults and over one-half of children with a diagnosable mental health condition do not receive the treatment and services they need. Yet, these conditions are just as treatable as other medical conditions like cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Decades of rigorous scientific work have shown that mental illnesses are diseases of the brain and therefore can be reliably diagnosed and effectively treated. Recovery is not only possible, but likely.

Mental Health America, which worked to pass mental health parity legislation last fall, said health reform proposals present an opportunity to expand services and access if concerted action is taken.

But it also called on corporate America to follow the lead of many major companies that are expanding mental health services through the workplace and finding it helps their bottom line and benefits their workers' health.

To continue efforts to end the prejudice and discrimination, Mental Health America today launched its realLIVES program, a unique online community where mental health consumers can share their stories of living with mental health conditions. Through their courage to speak out, participants give voice to the nearly 60 million American adults who have a mental health condition. For more information, visit www.mentalhealthamerica.net/reallives.

National leaders and long-time advocates in the mental health field today praised Mental Health America on its century of achievement:

"I extend my warmest congratulations to Mental Health America on reaching its 100th Anniversary. This extraordinary day honors the remarkable accomplishments of the oldest mental health association in the nation and its longstanding care and concern for the rights of persons with mental illness. The organization has improved the lives of countless citizens and has called constant attention to their needs. It deserves great credit for the progress we have made over the years, and continue to make today, in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness."—Senator Edward M. Kennedy

"I applaud Mental Health America for its century of outstanding work on behalf of individuals with mental illness. As someone who has worked on mental health issues for more than three decades, I know how imperative it is to have the grassroots advocacy and leadership of Mental Health America to keep this issue on the forefront of our national agenda. The passage of the Mental Health Parity Act, which Mental Health America championed, has been a great achievement, but we must continue to work together across our nation to ensure that prevention, early diagnosis, treatment, and recovery are available to everyone who experiences mental illness."—Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter

"I want to commend and congratulate Mental Health America for its 100 year record of achievement and advocacy on behalf of people with mental illness. From the earliest days of your founding, when Clifford Beers was speaking out about changing the public's attitudes toward people with mental illness, you have led the sea change of reducing stigma and providing hope. Your efforts have not only changed the way we as a nation view mental illness, but also have opened the door for new and more effective treatments and a focus on prevention. As the first association of its kind, you have paved the way for future health advocacy efforts and helped elevate mental health and wellness on our national agenda."—Tipper Gore

"As you embark upon the centennial year celebration of Mental Health America you should be proud of the work you have done and the progress we are making in moving the mental health agenda forward. Working with you has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career."—Dr. David Satcher, 16th Surgeon General of the United States

For fact sheets and additional information on mental health issues and conditions, go to www.mentalhealthamerica.net.

Celebrating 100 years of mental health advocacy, Mental Health America is the country's leading nonprofit dedicated to helping all people live mentally healthier lives. With our more than 300 affiliates nationwide, we represent a growing movement of Americans who promote mental wellness for the health and well-being of the nation—everyday and in times of crisis. In 2009, we are marking a century of achievement with a year-long Centennial Observance: "Celebrating the Legacy. Forging the Future."