The impact of mental illness is highlighted nationally in the month of May as Mental Health Awareness Month. The focus this year is on the brain/body connection to mental health and the importance of diet, exercise, attention to sleep, stress and the brain/gut connection.

An even deeper, underlying issue that deserves to be highlighted as well is the relationship between mental illness and homelessness. This issue was recently brought to our attention by the Los Angeles Family Housing organization, which deals with homelessness. According to the organization, untreated mental illness can create a cycle of crisis and instability, making escape from homelessness very difficult.

The Mayor’s Committee recognizes the role that untreated mental illness plays in homelessness, and we also affirm that housing is a first step toward wellbeing, healthcare and employment for individuals with psychiatric disabilities.

Measure H funding allows LA Family Housing do its work, which includes outreach teams, mental health clinicians and physical health practitioners providing field-based services to those living outdoors. We’re grateful that LA Mayor Eric Garcetti has launched “A Bridge Home” in order to confront the crisis and find, at minimum, a safe place for individuals and families to sleep while more permanent housing solutions are being built.

The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that one in five people will experience a psychiatric disability in their lifetime, and one in four Americans currently knows someone who has a psychiatric disability. It is likely that most employers have at least one employee with a psychiatric disability.

The Mayor’s Committee joins with organizations throughout the US in bringing attention and awareness to mental health in our communities. We support efforts to improve mental health through avenues of greater physical health as well as through providing a safe place to sleep, treatment, and eventually a permanent home and productive employment.