HHS is committed to addressing the nation’s behavioral health crises and strengthening mental health of all Americans.
Today, Secretary Xavier Becerra and leaders across the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released the following statements in recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month, which is observed every year in May. As part of President Joe Biden’s whole-of-government strategy to transform mental health services for all Americans—a key part of the President’s Unity Agenda—Secretary Becerra kicked off the HHS National Tour to Strengthen Mental Health to address the mental health challenges that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, including substance use, youth mental health, and suicide. Since kicking off the tour, Secretary Becerra and HHS leaders have been traveling across the country to hear directly from Americans about the mental health challenges they’re facing and engage with local leaders to strengthen the mental health and crisis care system in our communities. The National Tour to Strengthen Mental Health was launched on March 1, 2022, following the State of the Union.
The linked Fact Sheet provides an overview of the Department’s efforts to address the nation’s behavioral health crises and strengthen mental health of all Americans.
Secretary Xavier Becerra: “Mental health is an essential part of one’s overall health and well-being, which has been even more critical during the COVID-19 pandemic. At HHS, we are committed to carrying out President’s Biden’s strategy to transform mental health care by improving access, quality of care, and outcomes for all Americans. We know that with the right services and supports, people can and do recover and live full, productive lives in our communities. To those who are in need of support: we care about you and will provide help.”
Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Rachel Levine: “As we address our nation’s behavioral health needs, we must give particular consideration to those who have been denied opportunities and are disproportionately impacted by poor access to quality mental health care and roadblocks to their well-being. We must promote better pathways to care and make it as easy as possible for everyone living in America with mental health needs – including common and pervasive conditions like anxiety and depression – to access the resources that will improve their well-being.”
Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use, Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon, Ph.D.: “Mental health is central to overall health. At SAMHSA, during Mental Health Awareness Month, and every day, we will continue working toward better integration of mental and primary healthcare, removing barriers that too often prevent people from seeking help, and increasing access to affordable, quality care. We know that with the right services and supports, people with mental health conditions can and do recover and live full, productive lives in communities of their choosing across the country.”
U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy: “This Mental Health Awareness Month, I hope we all take the time to recognize not only the pandemic’s toll on our mental health – with so many of us experiencing a heightened sense of anxiety, loss, and trauma – but also the urgent need for action. Even before the pandemic, there were alarming and increasing rates of depression and loneliness, especially among young people. Last December, I issued a Surgeon General’s Advisory on the youth mental health crisis in our country, showing how we can all work together to step up for our children and for one another. Destigmatizing discussions around mental health, improving access to care, and supporting one another will help lay the foundation for a healthier nation.”
Administration for Children and Families Assistant Secretary January Contreras: “ACF is committed to deepening the integration of mental health support into the existing programs and services that we provide to America’s most vulnerable families, youth and children. Before the pandemic, one in every three people in the United States, which includes nearly half of all people of color, were economically insecure with incomes well below the federal poverty level. The COVID-19 pandemic intensified the effects of these already existing racial, social, and economic inequalities. Many low- and moderate-income families experienced unemployment, difficulty paying utility expenses, and lack of child care options, further compounding financial hardships and causing undue worry and anxiety. Supporting mental health is now more critical than ever. ACF pledges to take a whole-family approach to promote the mental health and well-being of the individuals in the communities to which we provide assistance.”
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Director Robert Valdez, Ph.D., M.H.S.A.: “The COVID-19 pandemic has caused untold loss, fear, depression, and stress, increasing the need for mental health care services among front-line health care professionals and other essential workers, as well as others. Yet, mental health remains a stigma in our society, and fear of judgement and unrealistic work expectations prevent many from seeking care. AHRQ’s tools offer clinicians improved screening, diagnostic, and treatment approaches. Plus, there are many options for leaders and managers to address societal stigma by encouraging peer support and lowering barriers for workers to seek effective mental health care.”
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH: “COVID-19 highlighted long-standing and pervasive inequities in mental health in our country. The pandemic also exacerbated preventable challenges that are intertwined with our nation’s mental health and well-being, including drug overdose, violence, suicide, and adverse childhood experiences. At CDC, we are committed to taking action to protect the mental health of all Americans and to build healthy, resilient communities.”
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure: “COVID-19 has highlighted and exacerbated unmet mental health needs, along with disparities in access to care and outcomes. As the nation’s largest payer of behavioral health services, CMS is working to fill these gaps in access to mental health care services across the lifespan, from infancy through life as an older adult. We’re proud of our work to ensure more people in more places across all stages of life can receive high-quality, affordable, person-centered mental health care.”
Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Robert M. Califf, M.D.: “Protecting the nation’s public health includes promoting and maintaining good mental health for all Americans. The FDA plays a critical role in responding to the changes in our society while protecting and promoting the health of the public across the many areas we regulate. We are committed to continuing to develop the science base that we need to give Americans even more confidence in tools that support healthy behaviors and mental health is no exception.”
Health Resources and Services Administration Administrator Carole Johnson: “The trauma and loss of COVID-19 has heightened long-standing needs and inequities in our mental health system, and HHS’ work to address our national mental health crisis is focused on helping all Americans thrive. At HRSA, we are taking action to expand the supply, diversity, and cultural competence of the mental health workforce through our health professions training programs; increasing the number of community health workers and peers; launching new programs to support the mental health and well-being of our heroic health care workers; expanding access to treatment in rural communities; and bolstering the work of HRSA-funded community health centers in addressing the mental health needs of children and families in underserved communities across the country. We will continue to pull all available levers to help meet this critical moment for the nation’s mental health.”
Indian Health Service Acting Director Elizabeth Fowler: “Quality health care requires a focus on more than just physical health. To be physically healthy, we must also be mentally healthy. At the Indian Health Service, strengthening mental and behavioral health is a priority. Our mission is to raise the health status of the American Indian and Alaska Native people to the highest level possible, and we are doing this by providing integrated health and wellness that is holistic and that encompasses all aspects of the mental, physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs of Native people and their families and communities. We continue to promote a coordinated system of care between behavioral health and primary care providers across the Indian health system in order to improve the physical and mental health of American Indians and Alaska Natives.”
National Institute of Mental Health Director Joshua A. Gordon, M.D., Ph.D.: “The need for effective and accessible approaches to mental health care has never been greater. At NIMH, we are working hard to meet this need by supporting rigorous mental health research, paving the way for transformative evidence-based interventions.”
Office for Civil Rights Director Lisa J. Pino: “Removing discriminatory barriers to persons with mental health needs is essential to ensure full access to services and promote integration in everyday living in our communities across the nation. As we observe Mental Health Awareness Month, OCR’s continuing commitment and actions to enforce federal non-discrimination laws are a critical piece of the HHS effort to support the Administration’s equity work to address barriers and raise awareness of consumers’ rights and providers’ obligations under these laws so that all can participate in and benefit from the critical programs the Department provides.”