Please Support Mental Health Non-Profits: It’s Important.


(12-12-16) Every year during the holidays, all of us are asked to donate to groups that we believe are making our lives and society better. I am hesitant to mention my favorites because, in doing so, I will be slighting equally important and worthwhile mental health groups. Still, here are some that I would urge you to consider.


  • Sometimes in life, you meet someone who strikes you as a living saint, someone who is so good that you feel humbled. That happened to me earlier this year when I met Vandana Gopikumar, a co-founder of The Banyan. Vandana and her partner, Vaishnavi Jayakumar, are the equivalent in mental health in India to Mother Teresa. They have rescued hundreds of homeless, seriously mentally ill women from the streets of Chennai, India. If you want to know that the money you give will literally save someone who has a mental illness and is destitute from starving on the streets, then The Banyan is the group to support.


  •  I’m a lifetime member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness because I believe in its mission, leadership, and, most of all, the good acts of its members in hundreds of local and state chapters. The first question I ask panicked parents who contact me is: Do you know about NAMI? Its variety of programs, Washington policy work, and growing NAMI Walks continue to make it our nation’s premier grassroots mental health organization. That’s why I contribute to it monthly.
  • It might seem odd to include the Corporation For Supportive Housing on a mental health list, but CSH is one of the nation’s leaders in providing supportive affordable housing to individuals with mental illnesses and addiction problems, as well as, prisoners re-entering our communities. If you read its short history, you will understand why I am honored to serve on its Board of Directors and support it with a monthly donation.  

Over twenty years ago, a homeless advocate named Julie Sandorf was approached by two Franciscan priests who were successfully saving their mentally ill parishioners from homelessness. She travelled to their St. Francis Residence, founded for mentally ill parishioners on the brink of eviction from a single room occupancy hotel. With a safe place to live and psychiatrists and social workers on site, the tenants stayed housed and healthy. Julie spent the next year studying this new housing approach. With support from the Pew Charitable Trusts, she found hundreds of similar stories around U.S.: troubled people who had bounced between shelters, hospitals, jails and the streets were suddenly living productive lives thanks to this combination of quality housing and support services.

In 1991, Julie founded the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH)  and …twenty years later, we’re still inspired to bring supportive housing to those who need it most… people coping with homelessness and extreme poverty, as well as chronic health conditions such as mental illness, addiction or HIV/AIDS.

  • Some readers will be outraged by me recommending donations to the Treatment Advocacy Center because it was primarily created to push Assisted Outpatient Treatment laws. But it regularly sounds alarms about emergency room psychiatric boarding, a lack of crisis care beds, violence, poorly funded community based treatment, the effectiveness of assertive community treatment and the inappropriate incarceration of individuals who have mental illnesses. Whether your love or hate TAC, it has become the “go-to” source for mainstream reporters who write about mental health and one of the most effective at influencing the national dialogue and Congress. TAC has become an important voice for families and consumers who believe changes in HIPAA regulations, the dangerous criteria and bed shortages need to be addressed.


  • Maryland: Parents Who Care   When Laura Pogliano’s son, ZAC, died, she decided to create a Baltimore based group to help families financially who come to the area to receive mental health treatment. She could have retreated in her pain. Instead, she has used her talents to help others and, in the process, inspired us all!
  • Virginia: Two deserving non-profits in Virginia worthy of your financial support were created by women whose lives have been touched by brain disorders.  Co-founded by Jennifer Marshall and Anne Marie Ames, THIS IS MY BRAVE, produces professional stage shows featuring individuals with mental illnesses telling their own amazing stories about hope and recovery. If you haven’t seen one of their productions, you have missed an extraordinary opportunity. As executive director, Jennifer Marshall has become a tireless advocate whose effervescent personality and fearlessness has led to her being featured in The Washington Post, along with BIPOLAR and OPRAH magazines. As an individual with mental illness, she brings a much needed youthful, articulate voice to our fight against stigma.
  • The BRAIN FOUNDATION, created by real estate agent Trudy Harsh after the death of her daughter, Laura, is a remarkable example of the power of one person to make a difference. Since 2003, the foundation has purchased and overseen the operation of nine houses in Fairfax County, providing a home to individuals with serious mental illnesses and addiction problems. Trudy’s common sense and creative knowledge of financing has been copied in Florida and hopefully will spread to other communities as well.
  • District of Columbia: Under the leadership of Director Richard R. Bebout, Green Door Behavioral Health continues to be a preeminent deliverer of treatment services in the nation’s capital, setting a high bar for others to emulate as it cares for nearly 2,000 of the city’s most needy.

Are there other worthwhile non-profits that need your financial help?

Of course, I am grateful for all of them. Here’s a few more: Linden Lodge in North Carolina, Mental Illness Policy. Org, International Bipolar Foundation, Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America,  Pathway Homes,  Mental Health America, Fountain House, Depression Bipolar Support Alliance,  Bring Change 2 Mind,  No Kidding, Me Too,  Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care, the Judge David Bazelon Center For Mental Health Law, The Kennedy Forum, etc. etc. etc. (If you have a favorite – list it on my Facebook page.)

What’s important is that you send a few dollars (or more) to one of them this season. If you care about helping others and improving mental health services – just do it.

About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.