By: Paul Gionfriddo, president and CEO, Mental Health America
From the time Mental Health America launched our online mental health screening program in 2014, we have asked screeners what they want. Their most frequent response? “Help.”
We’ve been thinking a a lot about what screeners need and how we can most effectively provide them help. But what do they mean by “help?” And does the meaning change based on who is answering the question?
As we approach two million screeners, we have a pretty good idea about what tools our help-seeking screeners are looking for. Younger screeners – who are the majority – tell us they want apps. They want to access them from smart phones, and use them as vehicles to get follow-up services and supports. Older screeners, who frequently access our screening via laptop and desktop computers, want hard copy fact sheets. The majority of all screeners, regardless of age, want to be able to use these tools in the comfort of their own homes in order to work through a plan before they reach out for the assistance they need. And pretty much everyone wants interactive resources – they want to get and give feedback as they navigate an often confusing services delivery system.
But there’s more. What we also have now is a pretty good idea of the areas in which people want to use these tools. And that’s what is at the foundation of Mental Health America’s new “S2S” (Screening-to-Supports) program.
This week it was announced that Riot Games – the makers of the video game League of Legends – selected Mental Health America as one of four charities world-wide to benefit from a major fall 2016 fundraising appeal in partnership with Omaze. Riot Games committed to awarding at least $250,000 to each charity.
For MHA, those dollars will be dedicated to laying the foundation for S2S.
S2S will offer services and supports in four domains:
- Information and Education;
- Referrals to services and supports;
- Do-It-Yourself tools to monitor health and mental health;
- Engagement with “people like me” throughout the world to bring more peer support to individuals experiencing mental health concerns.
Just as they’ve asked, people will be able to access these through apps, fact sheets, and interactive materials.
Throughout the next twelve months, MHA will be adding tools and resources to our S2S program in each of these domains. We will also be soliciting feedback from those who use them about which they find most helpful. We will develop some of these tools and resources ourselves, and we will also seek out partnerships with others who want to make their resources available to the millions of our constituents who will access them.
This will be a dynamic exercise. For the first time we will bring into a single environment both early detection resources and the tools people want and need to move quickly down pathways to recovery. This will be challenging, but we’re up to it.
After all, we are living in the 21st century, and virtual environments offer an extraordinary opportunity to reach out to people across huge geographical areas – really, anywhere in the world – and connect them to lives services and supports, and to other people experiencing the same circumstances wherever they happen. S2S is designed to take advantage of this new opportunity by breaking down artificial geographical boundaries, and to help bring much-needed supports to people who have long been isolated from them.
We’ll be sharing much more about S2S in the months to come.
In the meantime, know that our screeners comprise one of the most extensive help-seeking populations anyone has ever pulled together and identified. We have developed our S2S initiative in response to their feedback. The program will continue to evolve as we learn more.
Finally, the ultimate goal of S2S –and the main focus of MHA—will always be to address mental health concerns before Stage 4, and move people toward effective pathways to recovery that make sense for them.