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15 mental health nonprofits working to close the mental health care gap

May 18, 2022 - 22 min read

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15 mental health nonprofits to support

Building a proactive mental fitness plan

Improving access to mental health care is a topic I care deeply about. It’s close to my heart but one that I haven’t talked about much publicly. 

My brother lives with a severe mental health condition. Because of his mental illness, he’s not able to hold down a job — let alone a career that would allow him to gain access to quality healthcare

And while medicare has helped some, most of his mental health care is paid for out of pocket. I recognize that my family is in a position of privilege, one where they can afford to pay for his care. It still causes strain and financial stress, and the fear of gaps in care. And, still, some of his mental health care needs go unaddressed and unsolved. 

Now, let’s add the complexity of intersectionality to the mental health care conversation. Socioeconomic status, race, gender, ethnicity, and even geographic location are all added layers that create more and more barriers to getting quality mental health care. 

People of low socioeconomic status are estimated to be two or three times more likely to have a mental health condition than those of high socioeconomic status. Research also tells us that there are significant mental health care disparities when it comes to race and ethnicity. This means people of color are more likely to receive poorer quality of care or experience increased barriers to accessing care, from insurance providers to facing discrimination by mental health care professionals

In rural areas, 18.7% of individuals have a mental health condition, which is about 6.5 million people. Rural residents are also more likely than urban residents to experience a serious mental illness. Immigrant communities also suffer at an underreported rate, facing barriers of language and culture on top of other access issues, with many fleeing traumatic events or enduring trauma in the immigration journey. 

Caring for your mental health isn’t cheap. It comes at a steep cost — and beyond just the dollar amount. There are more than 5.1 million people in the US who are uninsured and living with a mental illness. Beyond that, over 26 million people living with a mental health condition are going untreated. And almost 24% of adults with a mental illness reported they weren’t able to receive the treatment they needed, a number that hasn’t declined since 2011. 

Globally, it’s estimated that 264 million people alone are affected by depression. In low- and middle-income countries, there’s a massive treatment gap. Between 76% and 85% of people with mental disorders receive no mental health treatment. Yet the world continues to move at its own pace, often leaving behind those who need care and treatment the most. 

In the last month alone, we’ve witnessed crises that have incredible impacts on our mental health and well-being. An ongoing war causing mass suffering, loss, and grief in Ukraine and surrounding European borders. A racially motivated attack on the Black community in a Buffalo grocery store. A tragic mass shooting at a Dallas Asian-run hair salon and an Asian American church in California. An unprecedented Supreme Court leak that's generating fear, anger, and uncertainty. 

And against the backdrop of all of this, we’re still living through a global pandemic, economic uncertainty, powerful climate disasters, ongoing social unrest, and racial injustice, with media providing an inexhaustible stream of detailed coverage. Some would argue that we’re on the brink of a mental health crisis.

And while humans are more resilient than we tend to give them credit for, it doesn’t mean that we can go without support. Without access to care. Without the help we need to live with more purpose, clarity, and passion. 

So, who bridges this massive gap in accessibility to mental health care?

Whether you’re experiencing a gap in mental health care or are looking to support an organization doing meaningful work, read on to learn more about these 15 nonprofits creating more access to mental health care. 

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15 mental health organizations to support 

We know there are plenty of mental health organizations focused on creating equitable access to mental health care. We asked some of our own BetterUppers for their recommendations on mental health nonprofits doing work near and dear to our hearts. 

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

  • What they do: In my mind, NAMI is the jack of all trades for a mental health care nonprofit. An organization that has helped my own family tremendously, NAMI provides support and educational programs. They also help to shape public policy, which can make meaningful systemic changes to better the lives of those living with mental illness. NAMI has also served as a facilitator and connector to other resources in the mental health nonprofit space. 

  • Who they serve: Those living with mental illness, families and caregivers of those living with mental illness, and more. NAMI also operates with DEI at its core and works to cater its support for all, regardless of gender, race, gender identity, ethnicity, national origin, age, sexual orientation, education, disability, veteran status or other dimension of diversity. 
  • How you can help: From volunteering to donating to attending an event, there are lots of ways to get involved. I’ve personally fundraised for NAMI, especially for running races. 

The Asian Mental Health Project

  • What they do: Angelica Kelly, senior manager, Corporate Communications, and Melody Lin, strategy and business operations associate, are both big supporters of the Asian Mental Health Project. The organization is aimed at educating and empowering Asian communities in seeking mental healthcare. In many Asian American communities, and in the greater American population, there's a misconception and stigma surrounding mental health, which often discourages folks from getting the help that they need. The organization works to combat stigma and provide programming, events, and resources to the AAPI communities. 
  • Who they serve: The Pan-Asian community. Compared to those of other racial/ethnic backgrounds, Asian Americans are least likely to receive mental health treatment. Only 20.8% of Asian adults with a mental illness received treatment in 2020.
  • How you can help: In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, the organization is currently fundraising to provide resources for the AAPI communities. If you donate and/or participate in a survey, your donation will be matched by Prove. 

Teach and Transform

The Loveland Foundation 

  • What they do: The Loveland Foundation is a nonprofit organization focused on providing mental health access, resources, and initiatives for those experiencing barriers to mental health care. For example, the organization has a Therapy Fund that provides financial assistance to Black women and girls seeking therapy nationally. 
  • Who they serve: Communities of color, specifically Black women and girls. 
  • How you can help: There are lots of ways to give, from monetary donations to your donation of time. 

The Brain and Behavior Research Foundation 

  • What they do: The Brain and Behavior Research Foundation aims to alleviate the suffering caused by mental illness by awarding grants that will lead to breakthroughs in scientific research. A very science-backed and science-based nonprofit, this organization focuses on understanding the science behind the brain to better create new ways to treat brain and behavior disorders.
  • Who they serve: A global nonprofit that administers grants to better understand psychiatric and mental illnesses. 
  • How you can help: From research studies to sponsorships to monetary gifts, there are lots of ways you get can involved

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The Trevor Project 

  • What they do: The Trevor Project is the only accredited national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) young people under the age of 25. The Trevor Project provides counseling and support to LGBTQ young people 24/7, all year round. The organization also helps to shape life-changing policy and registration protecting LBGTQ youth. 
  • Who they serve: LGBTQ youth (under the age of 25). 
  • How you can help: Donate. Your donations help provide crisis services free of charge, help expand crisis services, helps to train a record number of volunteers, and helps to shape policy and legislation.

PsychArmor 

  • What they do: Meredith Davis, senior account executive, BetterUp, supports this organization committed to serving the veteran community. PsychArmor provides education and training to help improve the mental health and lives of military-connected individuals. The organization runs science-backed virtual trainings to help enhance connections between civilians and military-connected people. 
  • Who they serve: Anyone who is military-connected (i.e. a veteran, current military service members, military spouse and partners, children, families, etc.) 
  • How you can help: Donate. A $50 donation helps to underwrite the cost to train one healthcare provider in suicide prevention for veterans. 

The Asian American Psychological Association (AAPA) 

  • Who they serve: The Asian community. 
  • How you can help: You can donate to help

Active Minds 

  • What they do: Erin McClintock, senior learning experience manager, BetterUp, is a big fan of Active Minds. Active Minds supports mental health awareness and education for young adults. Steeped in mental health advocacy and suicide prevention, Active Minds operates in more than 1,000 schools, communities and workplaces nationwide, including over 600 student-led chapters. 
  • Who they serve: Young adults in the US 
  • How you can help: There are plenty of ways to get involved, from donations to volunteering to fundraising. 

The JED Foundation 

  • What they do: Erin also supports the JED Foundation, an organization focused on our nation’s teens and young adults. The JED Foundation shifts the culture and conversation around mental health with a two-pronged approach. First, it works to strengthen the emotional health of teens and young adults. Second, it works to prevent substance misuse, self-harm, and suicide. The organization works with individuals, schools, and communities. 

Vista Maria

  • What they do: Ashley Yousufzai, area vice president, People Insights, BetterUp, is a big fan of Vista Maria. The organization helps provide mental health treatment programs to those who need it most (on top of a portfolio of other critical services). 

  • Who they serve: Vista Maria works within the Michigan community to serve community members in need of mental health care. 
  • How you can help: You can donate or if you live in the area, consider volunteering.

Jewish Family Services

  • What they do: Doran Oatman, care guide team manager, BetterUp, supports Jewish Family Services (JFS). JFS provides clients, families, and community members access to emotional wellness and stability. With a team of mental health professionals, JFS has regional chapters dedicated to creating access to treatment for mental health conditions. Some common mental health treatments include anxiety, depression, grief, and relationship issues. 
  • Who they serve: The organization serves anyone and everyone in need of their services, regardless of their circumstances or religious beliefs. JFS believes in a shared responsibility to support impactful changes throughout our community.
  • How you can help: There are plenty of ways to give, from donations of money and time to corporate sponsorships. 

The Black Mental Health Alliance

  • What they do: The Black Mental Health Alliance helps to provide culturally-relevant educational programs and access to mental health care for Black people and their communities. They also provide a “find a therapist” locator to help facilitate connections between mental health professionals with those who need it. 
  • Who they serve: The Black community, including clinicians, individuals, families, and children. 
  • How you can help: Your donation helps expand the therapist database, increase training and resources, and more. 

Mental Health America 

  • What they do: Mental Health America (MHA) was founded in 1909. With more than a century of dedicated work to create more access to mental health care, MHA is committed to meeting the needs of those living with mental illness. With everything from access to care to shaping public policy and legislation, MHA works tirelessly to help everyone live a mentally healthy life. 
  • Who they serve: All 
  • How you can help: There are lots of ways to get involved, from donations to attending events to becoming a community member. 

Wellville 

  • What they do: Wellville is a national nonprofit project aimed at achieving equitable well-being across five US communities. The organization looks at changes needed in institutions and systems to achieve equitable well-being for all Americans for generations to come.
  • Who they serve: Five US communities in largely rural areas

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As for where to focus your attention, let’s take a page from Sarah Greenberg, director, Clinical Design and Partnerships, BetterUp. Sometimes, the best organizations to support are the ones within your own communities. Nonprofits that are doing meaningful work in your backyard. 

“I’ve always donated to or volunteered with local crisis centers. These spaces often support those whom the recent news would affect tremendously; and those who don’t feel safe leveraging other services.”

Sarah Greenberg, director, Clinical Design & Partnerships, BetterUp  

Building a proactive mental fitness plan

At BetterUp, we see distinct differences between mental health and mental fitness. People exist up and down the mental health spectrum. Some people live with mental health conditions while others may experience symptoms at a certain points in their life, depending on life (or health) circumstances. 

What we do know is that the massive middle — the 55% of people in a state of languishing — are at risk of sliding down that spectrum. For example, I’ve personally lived a portion of my life where I needed anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication to function. But today, I don’t take medication. I’ve built up a strong enough mental fitness practice where I can keep my symptoms at bay. 

But we’re all unique. Our brain chemistries, our life circumstances, the obstacles we face, the health issues we may need to overcome. We don’t know where, when, or how we or someone we care about will be in need of mental health care. We need a robust and diverse range of access models and treatment settings to take care of our mental health and our mental fitness

And we need to break down barriers so that in those moments of need, we’re meeting people where they’re at — when they need it the most. The more proactive we can be about building a strong mental fitness, the better equipped we are to handle the curveballs that life throws at us. And though navigating the mental health care system is complex, inequitable, and oftentimes, frustrating (at best), there is some good. 

Our society is starting to recognize this massive gap. And organizations, like all of these, are working to close that gap to help provide critical mental health services for those that need it most. And access to quality mental health care is critical to living a life of purpose

Regardless of where you are in your mental health or mental fitness journey, consider BetterUp. Working with a coach isn’t a substitute for mental health care. But it is an investment in your mental fitness. Together, we can help more people everywhere live with greater purpose, clarity, and passion.

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Published May 18, 2022

Madeline Miles

Madeline is a writer, communicator, and storyteller who is passionate about using words to help drive positive change. She holds a bachelor's in English Creative Writing and Communication Studies and lives in Denver, Colorado. In her spare time, she's usually somewhere outside (preferably in the mountains) — and enjoys poetry and fiction.

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