Leading Mental Health Charities & Organizations

Mental health disorders are real illnesses that often cause people to suffer silently. And, unfortunately, there is still a stigma associated with them. But, having discussions and raising awareness about mental health are the first steps to combatting the stigma.

Moreover, advocating for mental illness and giving back to the mental health community can be extremely powerful for both families and patients. Patient advocates even say that their advocacy work helps to strengthen their own mental health recovery. 

Ultimately, it is important to pay attention to your mental health. And activism is a way that caregivers, loved ones, patients, and all those touched by mental illness can give back to and aid others.

The following are some of the leading organizations that raise awareness and provide support and resources for mental health. They offer a number of ways to turn your suffering into action.

Mental Health America

Mental Health Organizations
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Founded in 1909, Mental Health America (MHA) is the nation’s leading community-based organization devoted to addressing the needs of people living with mental illness as well as promoting their overall mental health. This nonprofit group believes that mental health is, in fact, a critical part of overall wellness. They are an authority in mental health support, recovery, and advocacy. 

MHA’s philosophy is to address and treat mental health conditions before they cause individual suffering. They advocate for prevention services, early identification and intervention of symptoms, and plans of action to hopefully stop the progression of mental illness.

They also offer the following services:

National Institute of Mental Health

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is the leading federal agency for research on mental disorders. NIMH is one of the 27 institutes and centers that make up the National Institutes of Health which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

NIMH is the largest scientific organization dedicated to research focused on the understanding, treatment, and prevention of mental illness. It also conducts outreach to other mental health organizations to share information about ongoing research and plans and to obtain feedback for future initiatives. Additionally, NIMH partners with these organizations in efforts to foster public awareness of the most current mental health research. They also offer multimedia presentations and a free image library.

Even more, NIMH provides trustworthy information about mental health disorders as well as information on a range of mental health topics and the latest mental health research. If you or a loved one is considering taking part in clinical research, NIMH can equip you with information about clinical trials and how to find one at NIMH or across the country. They also have free brochures, booklets, and e-books to help educate the public about mental health and mental illness.

National Alliance on Mental Illness

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is one of the largest grassroots mental health organizations dedicated to creating better lives for Americans affected by mental illness. This group started around a kitchen table and has now become one of the nation’s trailblazing voices on mental health.

NAMI is made up of state organizations, hundreds of local affiliates, and volunteers. They provide education, hold events, provide resources, and work in the community to raise awareness and offer support to all who need.

In addition, NAMI strives to change the way people view mental illness and to get rid of the stigma associated with it through education, advocacy, listening to the public, and leadership. NAMI also offers educational programs in thousands of communities to make sure that families, individuals, and educators get the support and information they need.

Included in this is NAMI FaithNet—an interfaith resource network that promotes the role of spirituality in the recovery journeys of many who live with mental health illness and for whom faith is a key component. One can also call the NAMI toll-free helpline for free referrals, information, and support or visit their website to sign up for discussion/support groups or even help others on their message boards.

Through their advocacy work, NAMI shapes national public policy for people with mental illness and their families. Their efforts have resulted in obtaining funding for research, protecting access to treatments and services, and making sure that mental illness is treated the same way as physical illness in most insurance plans. NAMI will also provide advocacy volunteers with the tools, resources, and skills needed to protect mental health in all states.

NAMI participates in many yearly mental health awareness events as a way to show support for people with mental illnesses and highlight the importance of mental health. Participating in a NAMI awareness event allows one to help increase people’s understanding of the complexity of mental illness as well as educate the public on and help to reduce stigma. These events include Mental Illness Awareness Week, Awareness Messaging Campaigns for social media, NAMIWalks, and many other events.

To get involved with NAMI:

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) is a non-profit organization dedicated to saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide. The AFSP has chapters in all 50 states with its core strategies including providing educational programs for professionals, educating the public about mood disorders and suicide prevention, funding scientific research, offering programs and resources for survivors of suicide loss as well as people at risk, and advocating for policies and legislation that impact suicide and prevention.

The AFSP feels that too many people at risk for suicide do not seek help. Thus, the organization has created educational programs to reach those who are suffering as well as teach schools, workplaces, and communities on how to prevent suicide and make mental health a priority.

AFSP has also created the interactive screening program, an online program that can be offered through mental health agencies at institutions of higher education, law enforcement agencies, workplaces, and employee assistance programs. The interactive screening program website offers a safe and confidential place for people to take a brief screening for stress, depression, and other mental health conditions and then receive a personalized response from a mental health counselor. The site allows people to communicate anonymously with the mental health counselor and receive recommendations, feedback, and support for obtaining available mental health services.

Additionally, the AFSP offers programs and resources for healing as well as a peer-supported survivor outreach program. The organization also provides volunteer opportunities for survivors who want to find meaning and healing by supporting their peers. And, if you want to help advocate for policies that will help save lives, the AFSP’s public policy team provides volunteers with the tools they will need to advocate for suicide prevention at both the state and federal levels.

Much of what is known about suicide has come from research that the AFSP has funded. You can help promote suicide awareness and raise funds for AFSP by participating in Out of the Darkness community, campus, and overnight walks, honoring a loved one via a memorial fund, creating your own personal fundraising campaign, joining a team AFSP event, or simply making a donation. You can also get involved by becoming a member of your local chapter or by participating in one of AFSP's research studies.

Child Mind Institute

The Child Mind Institute is an independent, national nonprofit devoted to transforming the lives of children and families struggling with mental health and learning disorders. Lack of awareness and the stigma associated with mental illness prevents the treatment of many children and teens. The Child Mind Institute, however, strives to improve the futures of this population through three commitments:

  1. Provide these children with access to the best, most effective treatments when and where they need it most.
  2. Advance the science of the developing brain in order to improve diagnosis and treatment.
  3. Offer helpful, accurate information and guides that empower families and communities to get help.

This organization is an invaluable resource for parents. They provide expert guidance on how to effectively respond to a variety of parental concerns as well as offer resources that can help parents find the best care for their child. Their website also has a symptom checker tool where parents can answer questions and receive information about possible diagnoses and guidance about what to do next. Even more, they offer a Parents Guide to Getting Good Care, which provides step-by-step assistance to parents who want to get help for their children, whatever the problem.

The Child Mind Institute is also a great resource for educators. They offer teachers classroom strategies as well as guides to help educators effectively respond to children showing signs of a mental health or learning disorder. Their clinical experts are available for media and speaking engagements and they host a visiting professor lecture series.

And, in addition to offering free online resources as well as an Ask an Expert page that contains clinician answers to questions parents have asked the organization, the institute creates high-impact awareness campaigns, like Speak Up for Kids. This is the Child Mind Institute’s annual public education campaign advocating awareness of children’s mental health issues and providing needed information to families, educators, the media, and policymakers. (Their "get involved" section offers six different ways to help change a child’s life.)

Policy & Research

  • Treatment Advocacy Center is a national nonprofit organization that is dedicated to eliminating barriers to the timely and effective treatment of severe mental illness. This organization helps to promote laws, policies, and practices for the delivery of psychiatric care and supports the new innovative treatments for and research into the causes of severe and persistent mental illness. The Treatment Advocacy Center has become an authoritative, independent voice for reforming mental health treatment laws. Their website is designed to provide the public and policy makers with reliable sources of information about state mental health treatment laws as well as information and resources for helping loved ones with severe mental illness.
  • National Council for Behavioral Health advocates for policies that help guarantee access to comprehensive, high-quality, and evidence-based mental health and substance abuse services. They are comprised of 2,900 member organizations that offer mental health and addiction treatment and encourage their members to unite their voices in an effort to protect behavioral health care. The National Council for Behavioral Health introduced Mental Health First Aid USA through which one million Americans have been trained to identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance abuse disorders. The council offers healthcare management and quality improvement consulting and training services to health and human services organizations as well as to state and local governments to improve quality of mental health care. They also offer a free Find a Provider service to help you find local treatments and services.
  • National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery (NCMHR) seeks to ensure that all people who are recovering or have recovered from mental illness play a major role in the development and execution of mental health care and social policies at the state and national levels. One of NCMHR’s major goals is to empower people to recover and lead a full life in the community. NCMHR represents the voices and needs of actual mental health patients. They emphasize the need for mental health service providers to treat patients with dignity and to respect their rights and choices regarding recovery and treatment. NCMHR also advocates for a wide range of recovery-oriented services and support, including assistance with housing, education, and career development.
  • Brain and Behavior Research Foundation is dedicated to reducing the suffering caused by mental illness by understanding the causes and developing new ways to treat brain and behavior disorders. They achieve this by awarding grants to fund the most innovative ideas in neuroscience and psychiatry with the goal that these studies will lead to advances and breakthroughs in scientific research. Outside of the federal government, no other organization has been responsible for more breakthroughs in the mental health field or funded the number of mental health research grants than this foundation has.

Other Resources

A Word From Verywell

Activism is often a rewarding way to channel your passion or hardship into action. Choosing to volunteer your time or donate money to an organization can be a gratifying and meaningful way to “pay it forward” and/or help others in need. There are many versatile and reputable organizations dedicated to raising awareness about mental health. Many of these groups offer several ways to contribute and make a difference in the lives of others.

This is just a list of some of the leading mental health organizations. Some are broader than others. If you are thinking about supporting a charity, it’s important that you do your own research. That way, you can find the organization that feels like the best fit for your goals. Finding a way to give back to the mental health community may even boost your own recovery and allow you to cultivate meaningful connections to other advocates along the way.

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