Your car needs an engine to run, but without wheels, gas, and a driver you won’t get anywhere.
The engine is necessary but not sufficient for the car to operate successfully.
Your body needs lungs to breathe, but without a heart, brain and other organs you won’t survive.
Your lungs are necessary but not sufficient for you to live.
An Olympic athlete needs to practice their sport, but if they don’t show up and perform at the meet, they can’t win a medal.
Practice is necessary but not sufficient to bring home the gold.
Raising awareness about mental health
Our efforts to fix the broken mental health system must include raising awareness about the issues, but without action nothing will change.
Raising awareness is necessary but not sufficient for lasting change.
I can be aware of stigma and discrimination directed toward people with mental illness, but unless I change my attitudes and behaviors toward them, nothing will be different.
I can be aware of inadequate funding for mental health programs and a lack of appropriate services, but until our policy makers increase resources, services can’t grow enough to meet the demands.
I can be aware of the lack of access to services for people in crisis, but until we change the rules so people can get care when they really need it, people will still be excluded in times of need.
Raising awareness is a critical first step. Everyone must be educated on the basic facts about mental health conditions, appropriate treatments and how to access care.
But just raising awareness without taking effective action won’t really get us anywhere in the long run.
We have to be doers, and not just thinkers.
We need to have a sense of urgency that the problems with the current system must be fixed and must be fixed now.
So what’s getting in our way? It’s not a lack of awareness.
I think we’re already doing pretty darn well on the raising awareness front.
We all know that as many as 1 in 4 adults have mental health issues.
We know that it’s ok to ask for help and that effective treatments are available.
And we know that a lot of people (30 to 80 percent) never seek treatment.
And yes, we know that mental health services are chronically underfunded.
Common roadblocks to taking action
So what’s getting in our way from taking more effective action?
Let’s look at a few common roadblocks that keep us from taking action even when we are fully aware of the issues needing attention.
“I don’t know where to start.”
Start by reading some of my blogs, such as this one which talks about various easy ways to support people with mental illness.
“I don’t know what to say.”
Say you’re willing to give one hour a week or even one hour a month to support an effort to improve mental health care.
“I’m not anybody that someone will listen to.”
If you or someone you care about has been affected by mental illness or addiction, you have a voice that needs to be heard.
“I can’t make a difference.”
Of course you can. This quote by Edward Everett Hale says it well: “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.”
Yes, it can feel overwhelming, but start with something quick and easy to get your feet wet. Before you know it, you’ll be on your way to bigger and better things.
Get informed, but get involved!
So, what’s the takeaway here?
Raising awareness about mental health issues is still a critical first step.
But the even more critical second step is to take action to encourage better treatment for those who struggle with mental illness or addiction.
So, here’s our new mantra: Get informed, but get involved!
Let’s act now.
Here’s a question: What can you do to get more involved with efforts to improve mental health care? Please leave a comment. Also, please subscribe to my blog and feel free to follow me on Twitter, “like” my Facebook page, or connect on LinkedIn. Thanks!