More than 450 million people live with mental illness around the world. That means that 1 in 4 people will be affected by it in some way, either personally or through a family member struggling with mental illness.
Although mental illness is so common, there is still a lot of misunderstanding and stigma associated with it and often it’s difficult for individuals to seek the help they need. That’s where these ten great mental health charities step in.
Through advocacy, research, education, treatment services, and destigmatization, these charities all work in some way to make life better for those living with mental health issues and their families.
In this article, we’ll look at the following charities:
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
- Mental Health Innovations (MHI)
- Mental Health America (MHA)
- National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH)
- Rethink Mental Health Incorporated
- Child Mind Institute
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP)
- The Jed Foundation (JED)
- Rethink Mental Illness
- Sista Afya Community Mental Wellness
- Brain and Behavior Research Foundation
- Active Minds
There are so many more charities making a difference in the mental health field, but these, in particular, offer compelling programs, research, and support.
If you or a loved one are in a crisis, consider calling one of these helplines for immediate support:
- NAMI: 800-950-NAMI (6264) open M-F 10am-8pm ET
- AFSP: Call 800-273-8255 or text TALK to 741741
Keep reading to learn more about these organizations and their work.
1. National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
Mission: Through advocacy, public awareness, support, and education, NAMI works to ensure individuals with mental illness live fulfilling, healthy lives.
The Alliance started as a group of families gathered around a kitchen table in 1979 and has blossomed into one of the largest grassroots mental health organizations, consisting of over 600 local Affiliates and 48 State Organizations. They work with communities to educate and encourage support for mentally ill community members.
One of NAMI’s goals is to remove the stigma associated with mental illness. They serve this goal primarily through education initiatives like their NAMI Family-to-Family class, which serves to support families of people with mental illness, or their NAMI Homefront class, which works with the families of military service members and veterans who have mental health conditions. These education initiatives work with NAMI’s community-focused mission.
Through their toll-free NAMI HelpLine (800-950-6264), over 50,000 people were able to seek help in 2020 alone, and the help page of their website got over 233,000 hits. But that’s not all they do. Their advocacy work creates positive public policy change by promoting accessible, affordable, and comprehensive healthcare for people with mental illness. They also work toward practices that promote more awareness and earlier detection of mental illnesses.
To get involved with the important work NAMI is doing, consider taking their StigmaFree Pledge, volunteering on the HelpLine, or donating to support their work.
2. Mental Health Innovations (MHI)
Mission: MHI uses digital innovation, data-driven analysis, and the experience of clinical experts to improve mental health in the United Kingdom.
The goal of MHI is for everyone in the UK to have access to the digital mental health services they need. It is to ensure that care is always available, no matter where the individual is located. MHI believes the easier these services are to access, the more likely people are to use them when they need them.
Their inaugural innovation is called Shout 85285, which is a confidential, free, 24-hour texting service for people facing a mental health crisis. Volunteers who work for Shout have had over 750,000 conversations with people with anxiety, depression, or thoughts of suicide; they linked them with the help they need through a digital connection. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Shout program became even more important as a way to receive immediate, socially distanced help.
MHI’s researchers also use anonymous data collected from Shout to improve the Shout service. They also come up with other innovative ways to get people to help when they need it most.
In addition to Shout, MHI developed a training program to help promote well-being in the workplace, with a focus on mental health. The goal of the training is to help workers become more self-aware of their own well-being and to practice eight skills to help them have more beneficial conversations in the workplace.
3. Mental Health America (MHA)
Mission: MHA strives to address the needs of those living with mental illness as well as promoting good mental health for all.
After Clifford W. Beers stayed in a variety of public and private institutions where he suffered from terrible conditions and abuse, he founded MHA in 1909. Their mission also has a strong prevention aspect, like their B4Stage4 Philosophy: “that mental health conditions should be treated long before they reach the most critical points in the disease process,” similar to how we strive to prevent and treat cancer well before Stage 4.
MHA has a variety of advocacy and educational programming, including:
- Their annual conference (held as a hybrid in-person and online conference) brings together providers, advocates, family members, and more to discuss current trends in mental health.
- Publications like brochures and fact sheets to help educate the public about mental illness. They also publish an annual report called The State of Mental Health in America. Themed months to promote awareness like mental health month in May (which the organization founded all the way back in 1949!) and BIPOC Mental Health Month in July.
- Programs like Life On Campus which helps support college students as mental health concerns are on the rise on college campuses and Back To School which helps parents, students, and teachers understand mental illness and learn more about the B4Stage4 philosophy.
Recently, MHA released the first state and county-level data about suicide risk during COVID-19. This important data helps identify communities in need of mental health support; it includes resources, greater understanding and awareness, and direct crisis care.
If you’d like to get involved with MHA, consider volunteering with your local MHA affiliate or donating to support this important work.
4. Rethink Mental Health Incorporated
Mission: Rethink Mental Health Incorporated encourages us all to “rethink” the stigma associated with mental health issues and empower people to get the help they need.
Rethink Mental Health strives to reach this goal by focusing on three areas:
- Education. With the H.E.A.R.T. SEL Curriculum Program, this organization works with children between the ages of 10-15 to improve how they treat one another and themselves. H.E.A.R.T. is the first mental health curriculum to be taught in Nepal. So far, it has been taught in over 3,000 schools in Nepal! The acronym stands for:
- Advocacy. Through a variety of programs, Rethink Mental Health works to spread many different personal stories in the hope of destigmatizing the experience. They offer a variety of advocates who can speak at your event or to your group; a private Facebook support group; and a Wall of Fame where you can post about your experience with mental illness as a source of pride.
- Creativity. Between their Feel the Music Podcast and Art of Emotions Gallery, Rethink Mental Health works to share the experience of struggling with mental health issues in creative ways.
You may be wondering what you can do to help them. Luckily, they trust Donorbox to handle their fundraising needs, so you can donate through their Donorbox-powered donation form embedded in their website.
5. National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH)
Mission: To transform the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses through basic and clinical research, paving the way for prevention, recovery, and cure.
NIMH is a federal agency that focuses on researching mental disorders with the goal to increase understanding and treatment options. They are part of the National Institutes of Health along with 27 other Institutes and Centers—which make up the largest biomedical research agency in the world.
NIMH’s most recent strategic plan, published in 2020, outlines the following primary goals:
- Define the Brain Mechanisms Underlying Complex Behavior
- Examine Mental Illness Trajectories Across the Lifespan
- Strive for Prevention and Cures
- Strengthen the Public Health Impact of NIMH-Supported Research
Along with their interior research (which involves over 500 scientists!), another of NIMH’s activities include funding mental health research across the country. Their research funding program supports more than 2,000 grants and contracts at universities and other institutions all over the country.
NIMH also has a strong research training program that focuses on training and professional development to prepare researchers for conducting new research in the field that will support the goals of the institute.
Recent research conducted by NIMH includes assessing suicide risk in mothers before and after giving birth, mapping brain proportions over the lifespan, and addressing the need for rapid-acting suicide intervention.
While not technically a private charity, as a federal agency, donations to NIMH are still tax-deductible. Although NIMH might not interact directly with communities in need, their research is an important element to making mental health a priority for everyone and making life better for those with mental illness. If you would like to get involved, follow NIMH on social media or donate through the mail.
6. Child Mind Institute
Mission: To transform the lives of children and families struggling with mental health and learning disorders.
Since half of all mental illness occurs before the age of 14 and 75% occurs by the age of 24, the Child Mind Institute focuses on bettering the lives of children and families of children struggling with mental health and learning disorders. As a national nonprofit, they focus on direct care, education, community support, advocacy, and advancing scientific understanding.
They make the following commitments:
- Provide children with important access to effective and personalized care.
- Advance the science of the developing brain through crucial research, which will improve diagnosis and treatment.
- Create and provide useful, accurate materials with information to empower families and communities to seek the help they need.
Their personalized care offerings include in-person treatment at offices located in either New York City or the San Francisco Bay Area. Virtual telehealth treatment services are available to patients in California, New York, and New Jersey.
Child Mind Institute provides excellent support for families and teachers.
- For families: These resources include information on a variety of concerns and disorders, an Ask An Expert feature, a symptom checker, and stories that families can relate to and be inspired by.
- For teachers: Child Mind Institute offers classroom strategies like Managing Disruptive Behavior, an Ask An Expert feature with specific education-focused questions, and various campaign-based educator toolkits.
In 2020, Child Mind Institute pivoted all its programming to help serve families struggling with mental illness during the pandemic. They also helped provide additional resources to over 75,000 educators in New York City.
To get involved with this important work, consider donating or attending an event to learn more.
7. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP)
Mission: AFSP is a voluntary health organization whose mission is to support those affected by suicide through research, education, and advocacy, with local chapters in all 50 states.
Founded in 1987, AFSP works toward the following strategies:
- Fund scientific research
- Educate the public about suicide prevention and mental health
- Advocate for public policies in suicide prevention and mental health
- Support those affected by suicide and survivors of suicide loss
One public policy priority for AFSP includes support and funding for the 988 crisis response system, which is a new number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (also called just Lifeline) that will be operational nationwide by July 2022. By securing funding and looking into capacity issues, AFSP hopes the transition to the shorter number will go smoothly. The current number, 1-800-273-TALK or 8255, is an effective and important crisis intervention tool; capacity issues will need to be addressed to move forward.
AFSP also offers a variety of funding opportunities for research, especially in the following priority areas for 2020-2022:
- Suicide prevention research involving underrepresented communities, disparities in health care access, and researchers from underrepresented communities.
- Evaluation of technological tools currently in use with the hopes of expanding access for suicide prevention.
- Research related to the survivors of suicide loss and understanding the process of healing.
There are several ways to help with AFSP’s important work. Every year, local chapters host the Out of the Darkness walks that are inspiring, collective fundraising events. You can get involved in other local events and even sponsor your own event. And, of course, you can donate to support their research, education, and public policy efforts to prevent suicide.
Mission: StrongMinds empowers impoverished African women by treating depression enabling these women and their families to lead more healthy, productive, and satisfying lives.
Founded in 2013, StrongMinds works to provide mental health services to impoverished women in Africa. Their focus is to help these women overcome debilitating mental health issues through group talk therapy. It’s a life-changing, cost-effective treatment to begin addressing the depression epidemic in certain African countries. They have treated more than 80,000 women and adolescents through their programming.
Focusing on Africa is essential to StrongMinds’s mission. According to their FAQs, StrongMinds says that most African governments spend less than 1% of their health budget on mental illness. In Uganda alone, there are only 30 psychologists for approximately 35 million people.
StrongMinds uses Group Interpersonal Psychotherapy with groups that meet for 12 weeks with the women coming together for approximately 90 minutes a week. They work to train the facilitators of each group. After the 12 weeks is up, around 75% of the groups continue to meet up and work together.
Recently, StrongMinds launched a WhatsApp chatbot named Amani to be used as a virtual mental health resource. Amani offers the following support:
- Allows users to explore difficult feelings and learn about coping strategies.
- Enables users to learn the facts about and symptoms of depression.
- Lets users get screened for depression.
Once users complete the initial screening, they can request a call-back and get set up with one of the StrongMinds talk groups.
To help support StrongMinds, consider starting your own fundraiser or donating today.
9. The Jed Foundation (JED)
Mision: To protect emotional health and prevent suicide for our nation’s teens and young adults.
After Donna and Phil Satow lost their son to suicide, they founded The Jed Foundation to protect emotional health and prevent suicide in teens and young adults. Partnering with high schools and colleges, JED equips teens and young adults with skills by encouraging community awareness, understanding, and action for young adult mental health.
JED’s programming over the last twenty years has had a major impact. More than 3,000 high schools, colleges, and universities use at least one resource from JED. JED has educated over 7,000 mental health professionals in suicide prevention.
A national campaign called Seize the Awkward encourages young people to have important (but sometimes awkward!) conversations with each other about their mental health, particularly with friends who might be struggling with a mental health issue. They use this campaign to empower young people to reach out to help manage their stress during the pandemic.
JED also advocates for approaching mental health and suicide prevention from a public health perspective. Their advocacy work hopes to build a future where the following is true:
- All high schools and colleges have a comprehensive plan and system that supports the mental health of all students.
- Every teen and young adult has the tools to navigate mental health issues and to seek help when needed.
- Communities support the emotional well-being and mental health of teens and young adults.
- All recognize mental health as an important component of general health and wellness.
To support JED, consider volunteering in programs that support their mission or donating so they can continue this important work.
10. Rethink Mental Illness
Mission: ”Our vision is for equality, rights, fair treatment, and maximum quality of life for all those affected by mental illness, their carers, family and friends.”
Founded over 50 years ago and based in London, Rethink Mental Illness strives to give both people who live with mental illness and their friends and families the maximum quality of life. They provide a direct impact by offering services for people living with mental illness. In addition to this goal, they hope to help to inspire everyone to rethink mental illness and transform our approach so that no one feels like they have to face mental illness alone.
Rethink Mental Illness offers services like:
- Advice lines. You can bring your questions or concerns to the organization via the web, webchat, email, phone, or even post. In their 2019-2020 year, they helped over 4,500 people.
- Online resources. These resources provide all kinds of help; from basic information about mental illness to tips on living with mental illness, to information for carers. These resources receive millions of views annually.
- Support groups. The topics of these groups vary so that you can find a specific group that fits your support needs. These groups work across England.
- Support for carers. This program provides the necessary support for those caring for someone with mental illness. In the 2019-2020 year, Rethink Mental Illness supported over 900 carers with these services.
- Advocacy. Rethink Mental Illness is there to help all stand up for the services they need. They empower people to voice their opinions and stand up for their rights.
If you’d like to assist Rethink Mental Illness with this vital work, consider becoming a fundraiser or volunteering.
11. Sista Afya Community Mental Wellness
Mission: “We believe that together, Black women across the African Diaspora can sustain their mental wellness through connecting to resources and supporting one another.”
Sista Afya Community Mental Wellness provides low-cost mental wellness services in the Chicago area and beyond, centered on the experience of Black women. They work to achieve their mission in these four ways:
- Mental wellness education through workshops, online resources, and professional development events.
- Resource connection through large events that bring the community and service providers together.
- Community support through individual and group therapy.
- Mental wellness merchandise like African-American and mental wellness-themed coloring books, apparel, greeting cards, and more.
This August, Sista Afya is hosting a virtual summer retreat focused on overall holistic well-being, including physical, mental, and nutritional elements. The retreat will include yoga, a cooking demonstration, and more.
To help support this important work, consider donating to the nonprofit arm of Sista Afya, Sista Afya Community Care. Sista Afya uses Donorbox for their fundraising needs, so if you’re interested in donating to support this important work, you can do that here.
12. Brain and Behavior Research Foundation
Mission: To alleviate the suffering caused by mental illness through awarding grants to support research and significant scientific breakthroughs.
The Brain and Behavior Research Foundation was founded in 1987. They’re the nation’s #1 non-governmental funder of mental health research grants. Brain and Behavior Research Foundation has provided grant funding to more than 5,000 scientists in over 560 institutions around the world.
Some research they’ve supported in the past includes research into deep-brain stimulation for treatment-resistant depression, rapid-acting antidepressants, and transcranial magnetic stimulation.
The foundation offers 3 kinds of grants for direct funding for scientists:
- Young Investigator Grant, awarded to the most promising young scientist conducting neurobiological research.
- Independent Investigator Grant, which sustains scientists through the initiation of research through the securing of sustained funding.
- Distinguished Investigator Grant, which provides support for experienced scientists conducting neurobiological research.
Along with these grants, the foundation provides a variety of awards and prizes to recognize and support innovative research.
Their educational programming includes:
- Meet the Scientist. These monthly webinars run the gamut of topics present in the foundation’s funding efforts and connect scientists and the public with exciting new information.
- Healthy Minds TV. This program runs both online and on local public broadcasting stations. The foundation partners with Dr. Jeffrey Borenstein to produce episodes on all kinds of topics that present inspiring stories, general information, and cutting-edge treatment options.
100% of donations to research do actually go to fund research. They have separate operational grants to help support the costs of running the foundation. This means that you can donate with the peace of mind that your donation is going straight to research.
13. Active Minds
Mission: “Through education, research, advocacy, and a focus on young adults ages 14–25, Active Minds is opening up the conversation about mental health and creating lasting change in the way mental health is talked about, cared for, and valued in the United States.”
After Alison Malmon lost her brother to depression, she started Active Minds (originally Open Minds) in an effort to encourage open communication about mental illness struggles among young people. She started with a chapter at her own college and soon the organization grew into a nationwide nonprofit; their headquarters is in D.C.
Eighteen years later, Active Minds has touched the lives of thousands of college students and young adults all over the nation; even beyond. The national chapter network consists of over 550 chapters, with a collective of 15,000 new members annually. Through the peer-to-peer approach, new members work to promote positive mental health, increase awareness, and encourage peers to reach out for help when they need it.
Other initiatives include:
- A series of exhibits called Send Silence Packing. These exhibits offer thought-provoking images and installations to inspire suicide prevention advocacy and education.
- A database of Active Minds’ Speakers who can speak to specific issues, concerns, or causes, depending on your needs for your event or group.
- An award for colleges prioritizing student well-being – called the Healthy Campus Award.
- A new program to support mental wellness in the workplace – called Active Minds @ Work.
To get involved with Active Minds, check out their programs, consider joining your local chapter, or donate to encourage young people to speak out about their mental health.
All charities strive to do one thing: make the world a better place. These charities are doing really important, necessary work both in general and for our specific circumstances in 2021. But that doesn’t mean they’re the only ones! This list was compiled more to give you an understanding of what some of the top charities in this category are doing; not to claim that any of these are better than others.
In June of 2020, 40% of US adults reported struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues. There is no doubt that talking about mental health is an important step toward destigmatizing mental illness and normalizing seeking help.
These charities are putting in the work to make this a reality. Sometimes awareness is the first step toward real change. And these organizations hope to go even beyond that—to a place where mental health is valued, understood, and supported by all.
Consider learning more about these organizations and donating to help make their mission a reality.
If you or a loved one are in a crisis, consider calling one of these helplines for immediate support:
- NAMI: 800-950-NAMI (6264) open M-F 10am-8pm ET
- AFSP: Call 800-273-8255 or text TALK to 741741
For more nonprofit news, tips, and how-tos, check out the rest of our blog.