10 Things You Can Do To Improve The Mental Health System

Editor's note: This blog was contributed by our listener Debbie Cohen and resident mental health expert. 

As a follow-up to the primer and this week's conversation on mental health, here are ten things you can do within your own life to support mental health system improvement:

1. Remove “ic” words from your vocabulary. Do not call someone a schizophrenic.  You would not say “that person is a heart disease.” Use person-first language, instead of labeling someone only by their illness.

2. Do not immediately lump individuals with schizophrenia with violent criminals.  If you think of violent criminal tendencies and mental illness as two circles in a Venn diagram, research shows there is a very little overlap between them.

3. If you are a manager or business owner, look up your local mental health center and see if they have a supported employment program. Contact the program, and state your place of work is interested in hiring individuals from their program.  

4. If you work with children in any capacity, encourage the use of the wraparound model to coordinate services for youth with complex needs.

5. Say hi and genuinely ask others how they are doing on a daily basis. You may be the person who shows someone who is contemplating suicide that others do care about them, and they can get help.

Within most communities there are not enough psychiatrists. Encourage the elected officials within your state to follow a growing trend to:

6. Allow Advanced Practice Nurses to have full prescriptive authority after they obtain independently licensure.

7. Provide a special training program to interested psychologists to prescribe certain psychotropic medications.

Further there are many legislative barriers that prevent different qualified individuals from obtaining reimbursement for services within the state that work

8. There is a lack of parity between individuals who obtain a master’s degree in counseling or marriage and family therapy, and a master’s degree in social work. Encourage elected officials in congress to change rules to allow all independently licensed, master’s level counselors and marriage and family therapist to have billing parity with independently licensed social workers. 

9.     Encourage elected officials to promote peer support and family partner services within your state, and make them Medicaid billable.  

10.  And lastly, promote hope and not disability. Almost all individuals who have a mental illness are able to live independently and hold a job. We need to change the view of mental health within our nation, and make it easier to access psychiatry and other mental health services so that people can lead productive, independent lives.