Going “back to basics” to address the country’s mental health, substance use challenges

Two people hugging

Mental health numbers in the United States are staggering. In 2020, one in five Americans lived with a mental illness. One in 20 experienced an illness considered severe. Twelve million Americans had serious thoughts of suicide, and millions more used alcohol or drugs to self-medicate. In fact, one in 15 Americans experienced both a substance use and mental health disorder.

Behind each of these numbers is a personal story of suffering that impacts an individual’s ability to go to school, earn a living, save, and enjoy life’s opportunities. Exacerbating this suffering is the fact that many people cannot get help. Almost 18 million Americans had a mental health care appointment cancelled or delayed in 2020. Another five million were completely unable to get care. The problem far eclipses the number of clinical mental health services our country could ever provide. Moreover, the stigma associated with mental health issues creates further isolation, pain, and suffering.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. This year’s theme is “back to basics.” How do care providers, policymakers, nonprofit organizations, schools, and other stakeholders work together to address the care gap and alleviate the suffering of millions of Americans?

Stand Together Foundation invests in unique, community-led solutions that are changing the way people approach mental health. Through its Catalyst Program, Stand Together Foundation has helped several organizations increase the reach of their community-based mental health and substance use service programs. Stand Together Foundation’s Catalyst Community is made up of more than 220 nonprofits, all tackling the toughest issues in the United States. The organizations have one thing in common: they believe that each person has unlimited potential. Stand Together Foundation Catalyst Program participants working on mental health and substance use help individuals tap into their intrinsic resilience and belief in themselves by harnessing the power of a safe and supportive community. Our partners include:

  • Adaptive Training Foundation, which provides athletic training and holistic recovery services to help people overcome physical, mental, and external barriers to their self-sufficiency.
  • Black Men Heal, which provides complementary therapy sessions to Black and Brown men, reducing the barriers to therapy by eliminating costs and ending the stigma around mental health.
  • Bridle Up Hope, which blends equestrian training and personal development to instill resilience, confidence, and hope in young women coping with anxiety, depression, abuse, or trauma.
  • The Confess Project, which reduces the stigma around mental health for Black men and boys by turning barbershops into safe spaces for open and vulnerable conversation.
  • Fathers’ Uplift, which  assists fathers in overcoming barriers that prevent them from remaining engaged in their children’s lives, and provides mentoring, cultural outings, and counseling to children who are going up without their fathers.
  • Friends of the Children, which pairs a paid mentor, or “friend,” with a child for 12.5 years, creating positive, healthy relationships that alter the trajectory of a young life and giving children a sense of stability and chance to rise to their full potential.
  • Give an Hour, which connects the mental health community with the acute and long-term mental health needs of current and former members of the military and other at-risk populations.
  • Headstrong, an evidence-based, cost-free, stigma-free, and frictionless mental health treatment program for military veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression, addiction, and military sexual trauma.
  • PeaceLove, which offers virtual classes and a creative arts curriculum to equip frontline professionals like teachers and social workers to use art therapy.
  • PEARLS for Teen Girls, which promotes the social, emotional, and mental health of 5th-12th grade girls through their PEARLs groups, where the girls experience close relationships and community.
  • Project LIFT, which offers teenage youth mental health therapy and vocational skills training and the opportunity to do hands-on trade and automobile work with classroom instructors and licensed therapists.

Several Stand Together Foundation Catalyst partners, including Blue Monarch in Tennessee, Face It Together in South Dakota, DV8 Kitchen in Kentucky, and The Phoenix provide the tools people need to address substance use and the underlying causes of it.

We will feature these organizations and others in a series of stories this summer.

Stand Together Foundation’s Catalyst Program, a selective six-month management and leadership development experience, unlocks the potential of the United States’ highest-performing nonprofit leaders and organizations that are impacting their communities and have the potential to transform the way our country thinks about, talks about, and tackles its toughest challenges. Do you have an organization, or know of one, effectively working to address mental health and substance abuse needs in their community? Learn more about partnering.

Learn more about Stand Together’s economic progress efforts.