Addressing Mental Health Concerns in Our Community
On May 9th, United Way of Greater Atlanta unveiled progress toward improving the well-being of children and communities during its Annual State of Children address. Two years ago, United Way revealed nearly half a million children in Greater Atlanta lived in areas of low or very low child well-being. More than 300 stakeholders witnessed United Way – along with community partners – discuss their work to shift areas of low and very low child well-being into thriving communities. As we observe mental health awareness month, we reflect on how our United Way is working to raise awareness of the stigmas associated with mental health, address barriers to care, and align this work with our larger goal of improving child well-being across the Greater Atlanta region.
When looking at the mental health and well-being of our children, we find that how you look, where you live and your ability to pay, affect the likelihood of receiving treatment. While we’ve made some significant gains in reducing barriers to care, stigma is still a major impediment to people, particularly children receiving the mental health supports they need. The National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) estimates that roughly 62% of youth with a major depressive episode receive no treatment. On average, there are 129 suicides per day in the United States. Most alarming, only 25% of adults living with a mental health condition believe others are sympathetic to challenges individuals with mental illness face.
So, how does United Way help to address mental health concerns in our community? By advancing child well-being through thoughtful engagement & fundraising, investments in community organizations who work to combat challenges around access and reducing stigma; and convening stakeholders across sectors through collective impact – catalyzing change through partnered, harmonizing work to addresses critical issues in our community.
And we are seeing results. United Way is a direct funder of mental health services through our Child Well-Being Impact Fund and school-based mental health services in elementary and middle schools throughout Clayton, DeKalb and Fulton counties. Our partnership with the Clayton County School District, the Awareness, Collaboration, Education, Support (A.C.E.S.) Health & Wellness Model provides a pathway for students to receive onsite therapy services through district-wide foundational supports, targeted supports for at-risk students and intensive supports for high risk students. To date, more than 320 students and their families accessed mental health services across 20 school sites. Moreover, strategic partnerships such as ones with the Anthem Foundation help United Way to increase mental health and supportive services to expectant mothers. It is estimated that roughly 20 percent of women (and nearly 50 percent of women living in poverty) will suffer from postpartum depression and/or perinatal mood disorders.
Small steps lead to big change. It is imperative we all do our part to learn the facts about mental illness, and work together to help eliminate the social and systemic barriers that prevent children, families and communities from living to their best potential.
Interested in learning more or how you can get involved with United Way of Greater Atlanta? Visit www.unitedwayatlanta.org.
Ebony Johnson is a Senior Manager of Health at United Way of Greater Atlanta.