White House seeks to raise awareness and improve care
WASHINGTON, DC (June 4, 2013) - NASW CEO Angelo McClain, Ph.D., LICSW, was one of 150 people invited to participate in the National Conference on Mental Health hosted by the White House this week. President Barack Obama opened the June 3 event, and Vice President Joe Biden provided closing remarks after a daylong discussion about reducing stigma and increasing access to care.
"There should be no shame in discussing or seeking help for treatable illnesses that affect too many people that we love,” said President Obama in his opening remarks. “We've got to get rid of that embarrassment; we've got to get rid of that stigma. Too many Americans who struggle with mental health illnesses are suffering in silence rather than seeking help."
The conference brought together people from across the country—including mental health advocates, educators, health care providers, faith leaders, members of Congress, representatives from local governments and individuals who have struggled with mental health problems—to discuss how the nation can reduce stigma and help the millions of Americans struggling with mental health problems recognize the importance of reaching out for assistance.
“I was struck throughout the day by an emphasis on authentic storytelling as a way to reduce stigma about mental illness,” said Dr. McClain. “Many speakers, including President Obama, reinforced social work principles about serving people in their environments, and making compelling messages of recovery and hope easy to understand.”
- Expanding Mental Health Coverage. The Affordable Care Act will expand mental health and substance use disorder benefits and parity protections for 62 million Americans. In a morning session about addressing negative attitudes, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said, “We can create a culture where no one is afraid to ask for the help they need.”
NASW Resources on Health Care Reform
- Supporting Young People. The president’s fiscal year 2014 budget includes a new $130 million initiative to help teachers and other adults recognize signs of mental illness in students. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said, “If schools become community centers with health centers, we can expand access to mental health for kids and their families.”
NASW Resources on Children’s Mental Health
- Improving Access to Services for Veterans. The Department of Veterans Affairs has achieved their goal of increasing capacity by hiring 1,600 new mental health providers (including more social workers) and over 300 peer-to-peer veteran specialists. At the conference, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki said VA funding has increased 57 percent in the last five years for health services; emergency crisis services have also been increased. There are 24 pilot projects in nine states working to reduce wait times for veterans to get assistance.
NASW Resources on Veterans and Military Support
Emmy award-winning actress Glenn Close helped found the “BringChange2Mind” campaign, which fights against mental health discrimination and stigma. Her sister, Jessie, lives with bipolar disorder, and her nephew has schizoaffective disorder. In her remarks and in a follow-up conversation with Dr. McClain, she said that mental illness is a family affair. “Siblings provide us with energy and passion for this important topic,” she added.
Actor Bradley Cooper, who has been lauded for his portrayal of a bipolar mental health patient in 'Silver Linings Playbook,' introduced Vice President Joe Biden to close the event.
Vice President Biden stressed the importance of brain development and more research to map the brain. He added that communities must engage young adults, ages 16 to 26, who are the least likely to seek help when they have the greatest needs. He said, “Let’s use this moment to send a message to tens of millions of Americans, especially the young people and the parents of young people all over this country. There is nothing, nothing to be ashamed of.”
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The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), in Washington, DC, is the largest membership organization of professional social workers with nearly 145,000 members. It promotes, develops, and protects the practice of social work and social workers. NASW also seeks to enhance the well-being of individuals, families, and communities through its advocacy.