Giving Compass' Take:
- More and more donors and celebrities are advocating for mental health services and reducing the stigma of mental health struggles by openly discussing them.
- How does stigma create barriers to mental healthcare?
- Learn more about mental health here.
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It hasn’t always been easy for fundraisers to bring up topics like depression or suicide with rich donors — but that might be changing. Today, more sports figures and other celebrities are speaking up about their own mental-health struggles. The taboo against talking about mental health is losing its power, and that’s leading to more big gifts.
Wealthy donors publicly gave more to mental health last year than in any other year over the past decade: According to a Chronicle of Philanthropy tally of publicized donations of $1 million or more, 15 donors gave 16 such gifts totaling nearly $767 million in 2021.
Raising money for mental-health programs has become increasingly important as more Americans are experiencing anxiety, depression, and other mental-health disorders. Nearly 20% of U.S. adults, 50 million people, experienced some form of mental illness in 2019, according to a recent report by Mental Health America, and suicidal ideation, thinking seriously about ending one’s own life, is on the rise.
Severe depression among U.S. youths is also growing, with 15 percent experiencing major depression in the last year.
Police violence and pandemic-related illness, death, isolation, and economic fallout have been especially tough on people of color and other marginalized groups. Andrea Brown, executive director of the Black Mental Health Alliance, says these crises have heightened anxiety among Black people, especially Black youths. If there’s a silver lining, Brown says, it’s that today’s Black youths are much more comfortable acknowledging their mental-health struggles than their elders were.
“Young people are more apt to want to have a conversation around how they feel,” Brown says. “Then they become these ambassadors for having conversations around mental health and wellness, but we need to do much, much more.”
TACKMA sportswear founder Jeffrey Schottenstein and his parents, Jay and Jeanie, gave $10 million to Ohio State University for a new mental-health program to build students’ emotional resiliency and better equip them to cope with mental-health challenges. The gift grew out of conversations Jeffrey Schottenstein had with university officials about his struggle with depression and anxiety during his freshman year there and how keeping it to himself made it worse.
Ian Adair is a rarity among nonprofit executives: He writes and speaks extensively about his mental-health challenges as well as those of his family. Adair served as executive director of the Gracepoint Foundation from 2017 until he left recently for a senior role at the Association of Fundraising Professionals. When he was hired at the Gracepoint Foundation, the small nonprofit was bringing in little money for the much larger mental-health service provider it supports. Adair says the organization didn’t know how to connect with wealthy donors. Five years on, however, the nonprofit has raised a total of $2.3 million and has a much more active set of wealthy supporters.
Read the full article about philanthropy and mental health by Maria D Mento at the Associated Press News.