Behavioral health care is in the spotlight in May because it’s Mental Health Month.

Ann Schumacher, president of CHI Immanuel Health in Omaha, Neb., talked on the phone about some of the reasons why still, in 2017, Mental Health Month continues to be necessary.

Schumacher, who is council chair of the American Hospital Association’s Section for Psychiatric and Substance Abuse Services, says that progress has been made in terms of bringing the need for behavioral health care into the mainstream, but more can be done. “Mental health has always been an issue,” with about 1 in 5 people experiencing a mental illness at some point in their lifetime, she says. “The challenge has been that as a society there still remains a fair amount of stigma,” Schumacher says.

The hospital field is working hard to dilute that stigma, and one of the more interesting ways it’s doing that is by bringing behavioral health care into primary care.

“This move to integrate is really exciting for us,” she says. “It reduces the stigma.”

The AHA and the section that Schumacher chairs offer a number of tools, fact sheets, guides and other resources that can help a hospital or health system looking to boost behavioral health care capabilities. As part of that, on May 31 the AHA is offering a webinar with officials from McLean Hospital, Belmont, Mass., talking about their public awareness campaign “Deconstructing Stigma: A Change in Thought Can Change a Life.”

Another AHA publication, "7 Steps to Expand the Behavioral Health Capabilities of Your Workforce: A Guide to Help Move You Forward," also might prove useful.

Schumacher notes that given the high number of people who experience mental illness or behavioral disorders but remain reluctant to get treatment, the message she'd like to send is that there is hope. "Mental health disorders really are quite treatable."