National Mental Health Month and the Mental Health Explorer

The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” While we have shifted our societal views on what we define as “healthy” and have molded programs to meet the needs of individuals, mental health stigma remains. Meanwhile, several figures in popular culture and other platforms have begun a crusade to de-stigmatize mental health issues. For example, President Obama championed and signed the 21st Century Cures Act in 2016 which took steps to ensure insurance companies treat mental health and substance use disorders more equitably. Mental Health America (MHA) has declared May National Mental Health Month. Additionally, many leaders around the world are encouraging safe spaces to discuss issues that millions of people struggle with daily.  


Research confirms extensive mental health stigma and unmet need. Multiple studies from RAND state that mental health stigma is rampant in places like correctional facilities, professional work environments, and in the military. According to the CDC, 50% of Americans are diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder, and the third most common cause for hospitalization is mental illness, especially in the 18-44 age group. Mental Health America (MHA) fact sheets state 1 in 5, or in other words 9 million, American adults reported not having their mental health needs met. MHA reports that, compared to states with a large mental health provider workforce, “states with the lowest workforce [have] almost 4 times the number individuals to only 1 mental health provider.” In 2018, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) published a reportprojecting supply and demand for behavioral health occupations in 2030. Utilizing 2016 baseline data, the findings revealed behavioral health workforce variations by state and projected an overall shortage across 37 states, reaffirming the need for these services. As we become more cognizant about mental health issues and workforce deficits, policy makers must be careful to match limited resources and appropriate mental health supports to existing needs.  To assist policy makers, practitioners, and communities in these efforts, the team at HealthLandscape developed a tool which provides data illustrating mental health services and need across the nation.  

In May 2019, in conjunction with National Mental Health Month, HealthLandscape launched the Mental Health Explorer. The Mental Health Explorer (shown above) is a free, online tool based primarily on data available from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s County Health Rankings. The County Health Ranking model uses over 30 data measures which leaders can use to advocate for health policy and program improvements in their communities.  The Mental Health Explorer features the Mental Health Mapper (shown below), which consolidates relevant County Health Rankings data, other mortality data, and workforce data in one tool for users to view their specific county level data pertaining to mental health and wellness.

Three additional capabilities are also available through the Mental Health Explorer: Mapping the mental health workforce, mapping community health data, and uploading other data sets for geocoding or analysis. The Mental Health Workforce Mapper (shown below) allows the user to view point and rate data on the mental health workforce. 

Community HealthView (shown below) is an extensive library of social, behavioral, and health measures. Finally, users can upload data to add to the map via the Map My Data feature.

Please refer to the Mental Health Explorer Quick Start Guide as you get started. The guide will help navigate the Mapper and its various tools, and help you examine mental health need in your community. If you have questions, contact us anytime.

Karin Natalie Pivaral for HealthLandscape
Dartmouth College Intern at the Robert Graham Center

Karin Pivaral is an MPH candidate at The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, Dartmouth College. As an intern with the Robert Graham Center, Karin conducted research in Primary Care Spend in the U.S. Karin’s Public Health research interests also include global health and health policy finance.

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