Mental Health|May 20, 2021

Taking Action for Mental Health

Gabrielle Fitzgerald

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Today is the first-ever Mental Health Action Day, and Panorama and The Upswing Fund for Adolescent Mental Health are proud to be among its inaugural partners. Powered by MTV Entertainment Group, this initiative is an open-source movement that has galvanized more than 1,300 partners from 32 countries, including non-profits, government agencies, and cultural leaders to emphasize the importance of both mental health awareness and mental health action.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, we have seen a massive increase in need for mental health services, which is not surprising given the loss, grief, isolation and loneliness almost everyone has faced over the past year. In a December 2019 survey by the U.S. Census Bureau, 11% of people reported symptoms of anxiety or depression -- a year later that number had climbed to 42%.

Through my work, I have a view into ways that people are taking action for mental health at the global, national, and local levels. As the board president of the American Friends of United for Global Mental Health, I'm pleased to support the important work of the organization to ensure that there is a world where everyone, everywhere has someone to turn to in support of their mental health.

While the U.S. has more resources available for mental health than most countries, these services are insufficient to meet the demand and under-resourced for the work that is needed. Early in the pandemic, the National Council for Mental Wellbeing found that nearly two-thirds of community behavioral health organizations expected that they only had the financial means to survive for three months or less, and over 60% of the organizations surveyed had closed at least one program.

Through Panorama's work on The Upswing Fund, we were introduced to hundreds of organizations across the country that have persevered to serve young people during the pandemic. Seeded by Pivotal Ventures, with additional support from the Klarman Family Foundation, The Upswing Fund supported 88 organizations in 33 states plus Washington, D.C. with grants totaling $10.8 million. These investments support culturally-competent community-based organizations that are on the frontline of providing vital services to youth during a challenging time, as well as innovative strategic initiatives that address barriers to care. As part of Mental Health Action Day, we will use social media to showcase some of the community-based partners that provide resources for young people to take action for themselves, and for families to take action for their loved ones.

While we were pleased to support these impressive organizations, there were almost 400 other applicants -- representing hundreds of excellent programs that provide resources to young people -- that our resources couldn't stretch to support. We are working to bring attention to these organizations, as well as provide information to philanthropists who are interested in supporting adolescent mental health.

The challenge of scarce resources is one of the contributing factors that lead to burnout and exhaustion among non-profit leaders, who often overlook their own mental health as they champion broader societal challenges.

At Panorama I encourage my team to strive for work/life balance, although sometimes I'm not the best role model. In this pandemic year especially, it is all too easy to fall prey to overwork, especially when the physical boundaries separating work and the rest of life no longer exist.

Therefore, we've spent time in the last year reflecting on the new models of working and ways of being that emphasize the importance of mental health. On Mental Health Action Day, we are encouraging Panorama's staff to utilize new and existing resources to take the first, or second, or hundredth action.

I hope this post will inspire you to take action on mental health for yourself, your loved ones, and for your community.


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