New Initiative Launched to Reduce Mental Health Stigma and Prejudice

May 10, 2013, 12:03 ET from Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare

HARRISBURG, Pa., May 10, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare today launched a broad, long-term initiative called "Mental Health Matters" to help reduce the stigma and prejudice associated with mental illness that often prevents people from reaching out for help.

Acting Secretary of Public Welfare Beverly Mackereth launched the initiative during an event at the headquarters for the Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services in Harrisburg. She was joined by county providers, advocates and individuals supporting mental health awareness.

"There are lots of myths and misconceptions around mental illness," Mackereth said. "Mental health disorders are real and treatable. Individuals living with mental illness and their families need to know what help is available and not be afraid to reach out for it."

One in four people will experience a diagnosable mental illness, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The initial phase of the Mental Health Matters campaign will consist of efforts to raise awareness, as well as support for other initiatives, including:

  • Additional mental health first aid training: Expand current training to quickly identify a mental disorder by equipping non-professionals such as librarians or soup kitchen volunteers with the means to help. This training is already provided to many police, medics and school counselors.
  • Families as first responders:  Empower families with the knowledge to identify the early signs of mental illness and what to do before a crisis occurs, as families are on the front lines of mental health awareness. A free resource and training guide will be made available to interested families.
  • Reducing suicides among veterans: Pennsylvania has the second highest suicide rate for veterans. A collaborative public-private effort is underway to address the psychological needs of our veterans returning from war. The collaboration includes the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, Deputy Adjutant General; State Office of Veteran's Affairs, Lebanon Veterans Hospital, National Guard, Army One Source, and the Pennsylvania Department of Drug & Alcohol Programs.

"Pennsylvania is a national role model in its innovative efforts to target various mental health disorders, investing nearly $3.8 billion dollars per year for a wide continuum of mental health services," Mackereth said. "With Mental Health Matters, we will build upon the state's commitment to individuals seeking behavioral health solutions and increase awareness of where, when and how they and their families can seek help."

Individuals experiencing a mental health crisis can call their local county Crisis Hotline or the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990, or text "Talk With Us" to 66746. The TTY for Deaf/Hearing Impaired is 1-800-846-8517.

For more information, visit

Media contact: Carey Miller or Donna Kirker Morgan, 717-425-7606

SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare