How to Be Vocal
For Your Community

Advancing mental health in America starts with you. Whether you use your voice to help someone get connected to support, share your personal mental health story or support mental health legislation, you have the power to make a difference.

There are many ways to create change – explore the below for guidance on where and how to start.

Just remember: your voice matters.

Offering support to friends, family members or peers living with mental health conditions can help them get the care they need to live well.

  • Helping Someone with a Mood Disorder Tips for how to help someone you think is experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition and connect them with the professional support they need and deserve.
  • Helping Someone in Distress Guidance around steps you can take to help someone who might be in distress or struggling, including demonstrating compassionate concern, connecting them to resources, asking about suicidal thoughts and identifying if someone needs immediate help.
  • When Someone is Struggling With a Mental Health Condition or Worries of Suicide Ideation Learn ways to connect with those in your life about mental health and suicide ideation, or after a loss from suicide.
  • Find Support Groups Information on in-person and online mental health support communities, and tips for identifying groups and specialized support group resources.
  • Mental Health First Aid An 8-hour course that teaches participants how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental health conditions, as well as how to reach out and provide initial support to someone who may be developing a mental health condition or experiencing a crisis.
  • Learn About Peer Specialists Background on the role of peer specialists – individuals with lived recovery experience who have been trained and certified to help their peers gain hope and move forward in their own recovery; includes information about peer specialist trainings and how to become a peer specialist.
  • Ways to Have a #RealConvo About Mental Health Guidance on how to have a conversation with someone struggling with a mental health condition, such as depression or anxiety, and what to do if someone is contemplating suicide.
  • Navigating a Mental Health Crisis A guide that outlines what can contribute to a mental health crisis, warning signs that a crisis is emerging, strategies to help de-escalate, available resources and much more.
“Without advocacy and awareness, we will continue to wait until crisis stage to address mental health and serious mental illness. We need to raise awareness and advocate for change by addressing symptoms early, identifying the underlying disease and planning an appropriate course of action on a path towards overall health.”
Mental Health America

By learning more about mental health, you can be better prepared to help people living with mental health conditions as well as advocate for better mental health care within your community.

  • Mental Health Conditions An overview of some of the most prevalent mental health conditions, as well as support resources and information on treatment paths.
  • Mental Health Resource Center Comprehensive resource with tips on what to do to help others who are struggling with their mental health, habits for maintaining emotional well-being and information on specific mental health conditions.
  • The State of Mental Health in America National survey data that provides a snapshot of the state of mental health in America and information about disparities faced by people living with mental health conditions.
  • Find Support: Educational Programs An overview of classes, presentations and support groups that can help provide education, skills training and support for people living with or impacted by mental health.
“With one in four of our neighbors, friends, family members and coworkers living with mental illness, everyone needs to know the warning signs. Educational efforts increase awareness so we can all help each other when we need it.”
National Council for Behavioral Health

Participate in an event with your loved ones and community members to raise awareness and show support for the mental health community.

  • National Council Hill Day An annual event uniting hundreds of advocates and organizations on Capitol Hill to learn about the latest policies and advocate for better resources and care for the mental health community.
  • NAMIWalks 5K events across the country that raise awareness about mental health conditions and support resources, education and advocacy for people and families affected by mental health conditions.
  • AFSP Out of the Darkness Walks AFSP holds Community Walks, Campus Walks and Overnight Walks in order to raise awareness and funds that are dedicated to saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide.
“We can all play a role in mental health and suicide prevention. Whether that’s reaching out to your local congressional representatives about mental health parity and research funding for the cause, or supporting someone in your life. Understand the health risks and warning signs, and if you’re worried that someone in your life is struggling, trust your gut and reach out – let them know you care. If it’s not getting better, take them to help. You can make a difference and save lives.”
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Sharing your personal experiences of living with or being impacted by mental health can provide support to others and can be a key component of maintaining your own wellness.

“When you open up and share your story, you open the door to healing for yourself and for those who hear you. You never know – someone may need that key to unlock something in her or his life and you can provide that when you share your own experience.”
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Speaking up about mental health within your campus community may help reduce misperceptions and shame around mental health, creating an environment that encourages people to speak up and seek support.

  • JED Campus Program designed to help schools develop comprehensive programs and policies around mental health for college students.
  • Suicide Prevention on University and College Campuses High school and college campus programs, particularly during transition years, are available in communities nationwide with help from AFSP’s nationwide network of chapters.
  • ULifeline Resource center with information about mental health and resources available on campus, as well as a confidential self-screening tool.
  • Starting the Conversation: College and Your Mental Health Guidance around how it is important to have conversations about mental health before or while students are attending college.
  • NAMI on Campus NAMI on Campus clubs are student-led, student-run mental health organizations on college campuses that raise mental health awareness, educate the campus, advocate for improved mental health services and support peers.
“We know that many people who are struggling with a mental health issue hesitate to reach out for help. That's why it's important for all of us to be able to recognize when something is wrong, and know how to connect them to the support they may need. That's what it means to be a good friend.”
The Jed Foundation (JED)

Ways to Take Legislative Action

Mental health policy has real impact on the day-to-day lives of people living with or affected by mental health conditions, including ensuring that people have access to adequate care.

There are many different ways you can take action. Start by checking out resources to get educated on current policy and learn about the latest legislative and advocacy news. By doing so, you’ll be better prepared to take action for your community.

You have the power to create change for you and your loved ones.

Read on to get started.

Staying up-to-date on the latest legislative and advocacy news can help you better understand how current policy and upcoming changes affect you and others living with mental health conditions.

  • Capitol Connector A blog from the National Council covering the latest updates from Capitol Hill, including how policy trends may affect you, your loved ones and your community.
  • Current Mental Health Legislation An overview of current mental health legislation on Capitol Hill, linking directly to the bills, from Mental Health America (MHA).
  • Action Center NAMI’s legislative action center that shares information on priority issues and legislation, as well as ways to get involved and make a difference.

With the upcoming election, it is more important than ever to be aware of where representatives stand when it comes to mental health. Use your voice to let your elected officials know that supporting mental health and protecting access to care are critically important.

Policies related to mental health can make a difference in how we live – from education to healthcare access to housing. There are many different ways you can use your voice to create change in our legislative system. Learn about our partners’ positions and initiatives at the national and local levels that are helping to advance mental health in America – and where you might want to get involved.

“When we step up and lend our advocacy voice to promote common sense public policy solutions to our mental health care crisis, we are providing help and hope to millions of Americans.”
National Alliance on Mental Illness