On our way to Washington

by Joanne Kelly

Good news!

The White House is working on launching a national dialog on mental health to address the social barriers preventing people from seeking mental health services – particularly the shame, fear and misperceptions that surround mental illness and mental health services. The dialog will begin on June 3 at the White House Conference on Mental Health, and President Obama and Vice President Biden are both scheduled to attend the event.

More good news:

I have been invited to attend the conference to represent INMI. In addition, INMI Chair Rev. Alan Johnson has been invited to attend as the representative for the United Church of Christ Mental Health Network, which he also leads.

Why are we excited about the conference? We believe that individuals, faith communities, and federal, state and local governments share a moral obligation to promote the common good and protect and serve our society’s most vulnerable members, which includes people with mental illnesses and their families.

At present, we are not doing a very good job of fulfilling that moral obligation. We stigmatize people with mental illnesses, discriminate against them in housing and jobs, deny them adequate treatment for their illnesses and then punish them by throwing them in jails and prisons when their symptoms get out of control to the point where they break laws. It is truly a crazy way to treat anyone, much less people who are ill and need help.

We are heartened that the current administration is devoting time and energy to this critical topic, and we have high hopes that the dialog will prove fruitful. Conference attendees will include educators, mental health professionals, and representatives from faith communities and mental health organizations. With a large number of key players at the table, the potential for a positive impact is high.  While the lion’s share of the action will probably come from those who are in attendance, the federal government has a large part to play in ensuring the availability of mental health services and enabling funding for those services.


Joanne Kelly

Interfaith Network on Mental Illness

Co-founder and board treasurer

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the submitter. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the board of directors or members of the Interfaith Network on Mental Illness.