As the mental health industry celebrates President Obama’s gun control and mental health awareness initiative, I for one am keeping my excitement on ice. There are still far too many questions, too much of a mountain to move, and too many baseless promises never followed through by elected government officials. The stigma of mental health is thick and resonates through society like cigarette smoke, leaving the stale smell on everything that someone suffering with mental health issues wears. This powerful stigma often creates the problem of people reaching out for help. "The sense of shame and secrecy associated with mental illness prevents too many people from seeking help," the proposed plan says. It’s uncertain if these measures can start the process of educating and creating awareness of the importance of early detection. Obama centered in on prevention, awareness, and early indicators instead of creating a plan that deals with crisis intervention due to the recent shootings at schools and public places.
One of the key new programs being proposed is Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education), to reach 750,000 young people with mental illness and refer them to treatment. The plan notes that 75% of mental illness appears by age 24. Project AWARE would include $15 million to train teachers and other adults to detect and respond to mental illness in children and adolescents, as well as another $40 million to help school districts and other community institutions make sure young people get help they need. The president also proposed $25 million for state efforts to identify and treat adolescents and young adults, ages 16 to 25, who often fall through the cracks after school. Project AWARE also includes $40 million to help school districts work with law enforcement, mental health agencies, and other local organizations to assure students with mental health issues or other behavioral issues are referred to the services they need. This initiative builds on strategies that, for over a decade, have proven to decrease violence in schools and increase the number of students receiving mental health services.