Today, my resolution to designate May as Mental Health Awareness Month in the state of Michigan was adopted on the House floor. With the passage of House Resolution 76, we seek to end the stigma surrounding mental health and continue the conversation about how we can best support individuals living with mental illness. As we develop policy as a legislative body, it is of the utmost importance to invest in treatment and provide comprehensive health care services to all residents of our state.

Every year, tens of thousands of Michigan citizens are afflicted by diagnosable mental, behavioral and emotional disorders, including anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders, depression and addictive behaviors.

Official reporting states mental illness impacts around 336,000 adults here in the state of Michigan in any given year — although we know far too many people are unable to seek treatment due to financial strain or social pressures, and their cases thus go unreported and unresolved.

Within the discussion, we must also recognize alcohol abuse and illicit drug dependence as a mental illness, an illness harming Michigan communities and citizens. Addiction, just like any form of mental illness, requires assistance and understanding.

526,000 adults will experience alcohol abuse, and nearly 205,000 individuals, ages 12 or older, will experience an illicit drug dependence. Yet, 91 percent of adults with heavy alcohol abuse and 81 percent of individuals with an illicit drug dependence do not seek treatment for their addiction.

Mental illness is just that —– an illness — –and it can affect anyone, no matter your age. In Michigan, 84,000 adolescents will experience a major depressive episode this year. Of that 84,000, 56 percent will receive no treatment for their illness.

This issue hits close to home with me. My community, my district and all of Macomb County, has been hit hard by a number of extensive cuts to mental health funding over the last two years. In 2015 and 2016, Macomb County saw funding cuts to Macomb County Community Mental Health totaling $16,771,744, with an additional $12,651,538 cut just a few weeks back on April 1. The rigid timeline for rebasing of state dollars away from Macomb County has created hardships for a number of families who rely on Macomb County Community Mental Health services and has left thousands without the services upon which they rely. 

The continuation of funding cuts to Macomb Community Mental Health, and to other departments like it across our state, will have devastating effects to the individuals and families supported by state funding. Ignoring mental health illnesses of those citizens who are suffering a mental, behavioral or emotional disorder only increases the stigma, leaving them feeling isolated and diminishing our sense of community.

The people of Michigan who are living with a mental health illness or addiction require support and professional care in order to improve their quality of life, and I hope we as a legislative body can recognize that. Mental Health Awareness Month is an important first step to show our state supports those who are living and battling with mental health disorders. I hope the proclamation will remind us we need to continue moving forward towards supporting mental health funding and combatting the stigmatization of mental illness as a whole. Together, we can be advocates for change.