May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Column from Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay

Readily available and reliable mental health services are a critical part of building strong communities. Often overlooked, good mental hygiene provides a major boost to our quality of life, our neighborhoods and even our economy. For that reason, during Mental Health Awareness Month, I am advocating everyone take a little extra time to consider ways they can improve their overall well-being.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Mental Health Awareness Month was established 75 years ago to raise awareness about the importance of taking care of our minds and to celebrate those recovering from mental illness. Now, more than ever, we must continue to be mindful of our mental health as our state and our nation face unprecedented challenges. Ninety percent of the public think there is a mental health crisis in the U.S. today, with half of young adults and one-third of all adults reporting that they have felt anxious either always or often in the past year.

Mental health services remain a priority for the Assembly Minority Conference. We have already made tremendous gains in understanding and addressing the challenges facing two at-risk communities: students in our schools and veterans. This month, we will continue to raise awareness about the challenges facing our schools and our heroes returning home, and we will look to build on our successes.

This year’s 2024-25 State Budget had some key investments in mental health services that I am happy to report: 

  • Adult Services Program funding will see $26.4 million more than last year
  • The Children and Youth Services Program budget is up $10.9 million compared to last year
  • Community mental health residences will receive $116.2 million more than last year
  • Community Non-Residential Programs will enjoy $25.1 million more than last year
  • Children and family community mental health services will receive $12.4 million more than last year
  • There will be $4 million in new funding for the recruitment and retention of psychiatrists and psychiatric nurse practitioners; and
  • Suicide prevention for veterans and first responders, including disaster workers, will see $2 million in new funding.

The truth is, there is really no group or demographic that can disregard the importance of mental hygiene. Stress, anxiety and countless other obstacles are a natural part of our daily lives. Ignoring them comes with inherent risks. The better job we do getting ahead of existing problems, the easier it is to deal with future ones. As we go through the month of May, I highly recommend we all take the utmost care of ourselves; this could mean speaking with your doctor about ways to manage stress, getting regular exercise, practicing gratitude or connecting with others. As we go forward this month, take a moment to consider what you can do to improve your mental health; you’ll thank yourself later!