In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, PolicyWise hosts Demetria Wack and Michael Wiafe welcome mental health advocate Josh Chan and Ashley Mills of the California Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission to discuss mental illness as a public health crisis, especially among the younger generation.
The statistics are alarming. More than 26% of Americans over the age of 18 meet the criteria of having mental illness and more than one million people commit suicide each year, while 10 to 20 million people attempt it.
“We all have a role in preventing suicide,” said Mills. “Asking someone if they are thinking about suicide does not increase suicide risk. What it does is create an opportunity for someone to step into a space and experience and share probably a very significant and emotional suffering.” She added that oftentimes those contemplating suicide just need to be heard with empathy and without judgement.
Chan is a student at the University of California Santa Barbara and has been a mental health advocate since he was in middle school. While in high school, he organized a Mental Health Summit at the College of Marin. “Showing more of an awareness towards [mental illness] will bring more empathy toward the community and hopefully produce more change at the policy level.”
Both agree that early intervention and early education is key to address the mental health crisis.