February 05, 2015

USA TodayThank you USA Today.

It’s rare that a national publication devotes a series about mental illness over the course of a year. But that's exactly what USA Today did.  In 11 installments, the newspaper published the series The Cost of Not Caring: The Financial and Human Toll for Neglecting the Mentally Ill.

The paper’s in-depth commitment to the topic has made an important contribution to national dialogue about mental illness—an issue that too often is neglected or subject to stigma. From how mental illness is subject to legal discrimination, to comedians using stand-up as education and therapy, to medical breakthroughs, the breadth and scope of content is vast. NAMI considers the series one of the most significant developments for mental health in 2014. As the nation’s largest newspaper, with a circulation of 3.3 million people, it raised awareness like few media outlets have ever done.

“Many people that do not have personal experience with mental illness and our mental health system have said they had no idea regarding the lack of help, the stigma and the many that end up incarcerated,” wrote one NAMI California about the series. “One day another generation will look back at our mental health system today and be appalled at the dysfunction and lack of care for people suffering from severe mental illness.”

“It was packed full of important newsworthy information to increase the general public's awareness of the plight of the mentally ill,” said a NAMI Florida member.

NAMI worked closely with USA Today on the series, providing research assistance and helping to find individuals and families affected by specific issues so that personal stories could educate readers. NAMI state and local leaders circulated the stories by email or social media to their members—as well as to legislators, law enforcement and others in their communities.

On NAMI’s Facebook page the stories were shared an average of 1,600 times and had 2,200 likes. The buzz was considerable, help to energize conversations and advocacy at all levels.

The series was journalism at its best—and a public service.

Links to each story can still be circulated individually or as a complete series (See below). Send them to friends, advocates, policymakers and others. Encourage them to read the truth about the mental health care system.

If news media in your community have not published or broadcast a series about mental health issues consider sharing the USA Today series with their editors or reporters as a model for the kind of public service they too can perform.

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