May 6, 2010; Source: Marine Corps Times | The Nonprofit Newswire has been following advocates’ attempts to ready community players (providers, journalists, policy makers) to improve state systems of care for people with mental illness. As the result of the passage of the Mental Health Parity Law and Health Care Reform there is significant potential for improvement in these systems but there are also many barriers. One of these barriers is the public’s lack of understanding and tendency to stigmatize those with mental illness.

At a Library of Congress Forum yesterday, Patrick Kennedy and Rosalynn Carter discussed the policy environment in mental health and pointed to the fact that veterans of recent conflicts are potential leaders in the fight to de-stigmatize mental illness. Kennedy pointed to the high incidence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury among the veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq and suggested that their talking openly about those issues could help with public attitudes about mental illness more generally.

Carter has long been an advocate in this field and recently provided a training forum for community journalists on PTSD and TBI at the Carter Center in Atlanta. This was aimed at helping to build strong journalistic coverage of the inadequacy of mental health systems as they now exist and what to do about it.

NPQ is impressed with the degree to which advocates in this field are attending to the journalists that help shape public attitudes by providing them with the information and resources necessary to do their job well. I also wrote here about recent cutbacks to services at the state level and about NAMI’s recent missive to journalists, listing links to articles around the country about other state cuts.—Ruth McCambridge