Mental Health America Launches New Awareness Initiative Discussing Importance of Psychiatric Advance Directives

Sep 29, 2011, 10:00 ET from Mental Health America

"My Plan, My Life - My Psychiatric Advance Directive" Introduced in Time for Mental Illness Awareness Week

ALEXANDRIA, Va., Sept. 29, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today Mental Health America is launching My Plan, My Life - My Psychiatric Advance Directive ( — a new online resource to inform consumers with mental illness, their families and health care professionals about the importance of psychiatric advance directives as a tool that provides instructions regarding treatment or services one wishes to have or not have during a mental health crisis.

The public awareness initiative, which is sponsored by Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation, launches during Mental Illness Awareness Week (October 2-8, 2011).

"We know that given the proper guidance, information and support, most individuals have a real interest in putting a psychiatric advance directive in place for themselves," said David Shern, Ph.D., president and CEO of Mental Health America. "That's why My Plan, My Life was developed."

A psychiatric advance directive allows you to specify considerations about your mental health care treatment and appoint an agent who may make decisions about your treatment in the event of a mental health crisis. In some cases, you may also give further background information about how you have reacted to past treatment.

Despite these benefits, a survey of over 1,000 psychiatric outpatients in five U.S. cities concluded the underuse of psychiatric advance directives in the United States. It found that while about 70 percent of consumers in public-sector treatment would like to complete a psychiatric advance directive (and say they would do so if provided assistance), fewer than 1 in 10 have actually completed one (1).

A comprehensive and easy-to-understand online resource and information center, My Plan, My Life answers some of the most frequent questions people have about psychiatric advance directives and provides a step-by-step guide on how to create one. The site also features the video stories of several individuals who have integrated psychiatric advance directives into their own psychiatric care.

"I am excited to be a part of the My Plan, My Life - My Psychiatric Advance Directive program through the inclusion of several video vignettes that I filmed with individuals who have their own psychiatric advance directive in place," said Delaney Ruston, a physician, advocate and filmmaker and lead film advisor on the video vignette library housed on "Their stories help to illustrate why completing a psychiatric advance directive can be important and it is great to hear their experience firsthand. I truly enjoyed meeting each of them and I am sure you will learn from their stories."

My Plan, My Life was developed in partnership with a team of mental health experts who have strong professional and personal expertise in psychiatric advance directive research and advocacy, including:

  • Dr. Ruston, who directed and produced Crisis in Control, a film highlighting the importance of psychiatric advance directives and Unlisted: A Story of Schizophrenia, the award-winning PBS documentary about how she reconnected with her father who had schizophrenia.
  • Dr. David Shern, President and CEO of Mental Health America, who is one of the nation's leading mental health experts with more than 30 years of distinguished work in mental health services, research and system reform.
  • Mr. Patrick Hendry and Mr. Raymond Bridge, Mental Health America Consumer Advocates who ensured that My Plan, My Life uses easily understood consumer-friendly language.

For more information about psychiatric advance directives, please visit

Mental Health America ( is the nation's largest and oldest community-based network dedicated to helping all Americans achieve wellness by living mentally healthier lives. With our more than 300 affiliates across the country, we touch the lives of millions—Advocating for changes in mental health and wellness policy; Educating the public & providing critical information; and delivering urgently needed mental health and wellness Programs and Services.

(1) Swanson J, Swartz M, Ferron J, Elbogen EB, Van Dom R: Psychiatric advance directives among public mental health consumers in five U.S. cities: prevalence, demand, and correlates. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law 2005

SOURCE Mental Health America