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Senate Adopts Resolution Recognizing May as Mental Health Month

WASHINGTON — Late last night, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution formally recognizing the month of May as Mental Health Month. The resolution was originally introduced by U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Chris Murphy (D-CT), along with U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA).

Earlier this year, the senators introduced the Mental Health Reform Act of 2016 to address the country’s mental health crisis and help ensure Americans suffering from mental illness and substance use disorders receive the care they need. The bill passed unanimously out of the HELP Committee on March 16, and awaits further action on the Senate floor.  

“Everyone knows someone who is affected by mental illness. Mental health is a non-partisan issue that we can all work together to address,” Cassidy said. “The passage of this resolution will increase awareness and hopefully reduce the stigma associated with mental illness. I thank Senators Murphy, Murray and Alexander for joining me in making this a priority and urge others to support the Mental Health Reform Act to fix our broken mental health system.”

“I’m glad Congress recognized Mental Health Month and hope that this helps tear down the harmful stigma that still surrounds behavioral health,” said Murphy. “Both Houses of Congress on the cusp of reforming our broken mental health system for the first time in a generation. Failing to do so now would be turning our backs on the 44 million Americans battling mental illness.”

“One in five adults in this country suffers from a mental illness, but nearly 60 percent aren’t receiving the treatment they need,” said Alexander. “The Senate health committee passed bipartisan legislation in March to help Americans suffering from mental illnesses get the care they need – promoting evidence-based approaches for treating mental illness and supporting states like Tennessee and local communities on the forefront of this battle. Senate passage of this resolution highlights the consensus we have on this crisis, and I intend to get a result on the Senate health committee’s legislation to address our nation’s mental health crisis as quickly as we can.”

“I’ve heard so many heartbreaking stories from families in Washington state and across the country about the barriers they’ve faced when trying to get a loved one the treatment and support they need for mental illness. We can and must do better,” said Murray. “This resolution is a call for action, and I’m proud to be working with many of my Senate colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, to push for progress on the bipartisan Mental Health Reform Act of 2016 and take badly needed steps to fix our broken mental health care system.”‎

The full text of the resolution is available online and below:

Whereas mental health and the emotional well-being of individuals in the United States are foundational issues that affect individual, family, and community quality of life and economic prosperity;

Whereas studies note that individuals with serious mental illness die, on average, 25 years earlier than individuals in the general population;

Whereas individuals with mental illness, behavioral health disorders, or co-occurring substance use disorders can recover through treatment that includes psychosocial therapy, clinical treatment, and peer support, alone or in combination with behavioral, psychiatric, psychological, or integrated medical services;

Whereas prevention strategies can prevent or delay the onset of many mental health conditions;

Whereas recovery-oriented interventions such as supported employment, supported housing, and supported education have been shown to improve outcomes for individuals with mental illness;

Whereas mental illness impacts individuals across the United States and in every walk of life;

Whereas nearly 44,000,000 adults in the United States live with mental illness and 20 percent of children and adolescents have a diagnosable mental health disorder;

Whereas 1 in 25 individuals in the United States has lived with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression;

Whereas approximately \1/2\ of students age 14 or older with a mental illness drop out of school and 70 percent of adolescents in the juvenile justice system have a mental illness;

Whereas the average delay from the onset of symptoms of mental illness to therapeutic intervention for teens is between 8 and 10 years;

Whereas suicide is the 10th-leading cause of death in the United States and leads to the death of more than 41,000 individuals in the United States each year;

Whereas negative perception and stigma continue to be associated with mental illness, which contributes to individuals not seeking needed care;

Whereas nearly 15 percent of men and 31 percent of women in jails have a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, major depression, or bipolar disorder; and

Whereas it would be appropriate to observe May 2016 as “Mental Health Month”: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the Senate—

(1) supports the designation of “Mental Health Month” to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness and to encourage individuals to seek care;

(2) recognizes that mental well-being is critically important and linked to the well-being of individuals, communities, and the economy in the United States;

(3) supports the integration of national and local community efforts to promote public awareness of mental health and to support individuals and families affected by mental illness; and

(4) encourages the people of the United States to view “Mental Health Month” as a chance to promote mental health wellness, to ensure access to services, and to improve the quality of life of individuals living with mental illness.