“Mental Health Awareness Month was established by Congress in 1949, bringing attention to the suffering of World War II veterans upon their return home. Prior to that, the first organization of its kind – Mental Health America – used the month of May to generate awareness about the deficient care available to people with mental illnesses after the organization’s founder suffered inhumane treatment while he was institutionalized.
“This year marks the 70th anniversary of national recognition for Mental Health Awareness Month, and while we’ve made significant advances in our understanding and treatment of mental illness, access to information and early intervention for the general public is wholly inadequate. As the chair of the first Illinois House Mental Health Committee, I’ve worked with my colleagues to engage healthcare providers, experts and most importantly individuals living with mental illnesses to develop policies that promote healthy lifestyles and provide greater access to resources for the 20 percent of Illinoisans who chronically struggle with their mental health.
“This year I introduced the Mental Health Modernization and Access Improvement Act, which would increase access to affordable mental health care for people living in all communities. I’ve also cosponsored legislation to provide mental health education and screenings in our schools, empowering young people to seek out the care they need early.
“I’m celebrating Mental Health Awareness Month because, in addition to making effective medical care and counseling available, it’s up to us to end the negative stigma surrounding mental illness. My hope is that discussions in classrooms, workplaces and in the General Assembly this month will shed light on how common it is to struggle with mental health and encourage people who are suffering to seek the help they need without fear of judgement.”