Mental health is not something to take lightly. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one in five adults in America experience a mental illness—but more than half didn’t receive mental-health services in the last year. Unsurprisingly, the statistics for children are very similar. We know our nation’s mental-health system is broken. Serious mental illness costs America $193.2 billion in lost earnings each year. While this is a huge financial value, we must not forget its impact on people. The consequences of unidentified and untreated mental-health issues can cause great harm, including dropping out of school, increased risk of chronic medical conditions, increased risk of substance abuse and increased risk of self-harm and suicide. A small percentage may even go on to harm someone else, even though the mentally ill are much more likely to be victims of violence rather than the perpetrators. Through education and awareness, we will be able to reduce stigma around mental-health issues, ensuring people are not afraid to seek help. Through dedicated advocacy, we can make sure resources are available for individuals in every community. I am a proud supporter of Sandy Hook Promise, a violence-prevention group that teaches the signs of at-risk behaviors and intervenes to help. In addition to providing these programs at no cost, Sandy Hook Promise is leading a coalition in Congress to help pass S. 2680, the Mental Health Reform Act of 2016. This bipartisan bill has the support of mental health professionals, advocates and families but needs help to move forward and be passed into law. The benefits of this bill are significant—including increased early access to mental-health services, improving the coordination of mental health resources and its delivery. I am asking everyone to take action: Call on our state’s Congressional leaders to pass the Mental Health Reform Act into law this year so it can help the people who need it so badly. Then, make the promise at www.sandyhook promise.org to help bring Sandy Hook Promise’s free violence-prevention programs to our community.
—Laurie K. Gibbons