May: National Mental Health Month

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, a time to fight the stigma surrounding mental health issues and illnesses by helping educate people on the services, support, and care available.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on many of us, leading to a sharp worsening of people’s mental health, especially among the young, unemployed, and those already facing financial insecurity. Since early 2020, anxiety and depression, substance use, and drug overdoses – have all risen.

Mental illness or disorders are a leading cause of disabilities in the United States. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in 2019, during the pre-COVID-19 pandemic, 20% of adults in the United States experienced mental illness, most often depression or an anxiety disorder. By February 2021, NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, found that more than half of Americans reported that COVID-19 had negatively affected their mental health.

And in spring 2021, the UCLA Center for Health Policy reported that “45% of California youth between the ages of 12 and 17 report having struggled recently with mental health issues, with nearly a third of them experiencing serious psychological distress that could interfere with their academic and social functioning.”

As a mother of a teen and being aware of the prevalence of mental health issues among our youth these days, I find it very disturbing to learn that high school students with depression are twice as likely to drop out as their classmates and that 7 in 10 youth in the juvenile justice system have a mental health condition.

Each session, California’s State Legislature affirms May as Mental Health Month in California to enhance public awareness of mental health and illnesses. I am the proud coauthor of Senate Resolution 86 recognizing May 2022 as National Mental Health Awareness Month in our state. There is a great need to improve the public understanding of mental illness so that all those with mental illness may receive adequate and appropriate treatment that will result in their becoming fully functioning, thriving members of society.

As I speak with organizations throughout my district, it is very clear that mental health is an issue with wide-reaching impacts. We have been failing our mentally ill populations for many years as a state. That is why I am proud to be authoring Senate Bill 1298 and Senate Bill 1427, which will make significant ongoing investments towards getting these populations the care they need.

SB 1298 will continuously appropriate $1 billion in General Fund revenue annually to help counties build out mental health bed capacity across the spectrum of need, from outpatient services to inpatient locked psychiatric facilities, to help close the mental health bed and workforce deficit. The state should look for opportunities everywhere, including recently closed hospitals, jail facilities, and unused city, county, and state properties.

To get individuals with mental illness and homeless individuals the care they need and to promote rehabilitation and housing stability, SB 1427 would create two grant programs, one that helps counties establish or expand collaborative mental health and homeless courts and another that allows counties to institute re-entry services for jail inmates at risk of becoming homeless upon release.

I urge you to visit my website to learn more about SB 1298 and SB 1427. To learn more about mental health issues, conditions and illnesses, and resources, please visit NAMI California’s website –

Together, educated and aware, we can help end the stigma of mental illness.