It's hard to believe we are just a few months away from the end of 2018! It has been a very busy year for NABHO and 2019's calendar is already filling fast.

Recently Lady Gaga co-authored an editorial that highlights why the work of organizations like NABHO at the state level and The National Council for Behavioral Health at the federal level are so critical. She speaks to the 800,000 individuals, who across our world, will kill themselves this year. Some of those suicides will catch our attention because they are famous, like Kate Spade or Anthony Bourdain, but most are average citizens and valued members of our communities and families, sons, daughters, moms, dads, friends and colleagues. Suicide is the second leading cause of death globally among 15-29 year olds. 

One in four will deal will some type of mental health issue at some point in their lives. Yet, even with these staggering global numbers, we still battle stigma and fear about saying the words out loud. We still perceive mental illness and addictions as human flaws that result in poor choices due to poor judgement, a lack of self control and will power. We still incarcerate and criminalize far too many individuals who have a legitimate and diagnosed mental illness and/or addiction.

Financial investment into prevention, early intervention and treatment services lags woefully behind the cost of actually providing the services. Yet, you cannot look at any segment of society where behavioral health does not have an impact. Our prisons are the default treatment facility, schools struggle with children who are dealing with their own or a parent's mental illness or addiction, work place productivity is compromised and our social safety net services are strained to the max trying to fill the gap for lack of mental health services.

Slowly the conversation is changing but we still have a long way to go. I heard a person say the mental illness is not a "casserole disease". She meant that when someone is diagnosed with a serious illness like cancer, or a heart attack, we show up on their door steps with casseroles and words of comfort and support. When someone is struggling with a mental illness or addiction we speak in hushed tones and avoid contact. We are not sure what to say but the same words of comfort given for a physical illness apply for a mental illness; "I'm here for you".

The words of John Lewis, former Freedom Rider, civil rights activist and Congressman from Alabama, ring just as true today as ever, "If not us, then who? If not now, then when?"