THE SCOPE OF THE PROBLEM
One person in five suffers from a mental disorder, in both developed and developing countries throughout the world. In the US, mental illness is the number one cause of disability, according to the World Health Organization. Forty-five million United States adults, 20 percent of the population of adults, have been diagnosed with a mental illness. Over a quarter of those with a mental health diagnosis are seriously ill, and cannot function effectively without support and supervision.
Individuals with serious mental illness can live full and complete lives, and cope effectively with their symptoms, if they receive appropriate medication, support services and education about their condition. Yet in the US less than half receive the support services necessary to enable them to cope with their illness. In developing countries, the situation is even worse. The cost to treat many mental illnesses can be beyond the reach of those struggling with a diagnosis. In many communities, appropriate services are unavailable or very limited. Availability and access to mental health services remains a significant barrier for many families and individuals.
The number of individuals seeking mental health services is on the rise, by as much as 20% per year in some areas. Yet in many areas of the United States and elsewhere, there are no plans to increase the number of service providers and clinicians. Already, more than four thousand US communities report having a shortage of mental health professionals to address current needs. Communities, around the world and in the US, need new models for delivering services to those coping with mental illness and in need of support.
Research and experience have shown that the most effective service and support for people with mental illness is delivered in the community rather than in a hospital or other institutional setting. Currently these services are delivered primarily by not‑for‑profits with substantial variation in size and capability.
At present, many of the most effective services such as medication compliance coaching, supported employment services and preventative health maintenance services are not covered by Medicaid reimbursement and must be supported by philanthropy.
The Natalia Mental Health Foundation aspires to provide financial support for individuals that cannot afford services in integrated therapeutic settings and to assist researchers studying causes of and novel treatments for serious mental health disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The Foundation also seeks to reduce costs and improve treatments through technology.