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Do Local Governments Have a Role to Play in Mental Health?

In the face of growing awareness and need, New York has developed comprehensive programs focused on prevention and treatment.
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REUTERS/Ruben Sprich

The advertisements on public transportation don’t usually warrant a second glance, let alone a conversation. But on the New York subway last week, a new series of banners went up, asking people to start talking. “Depression doesn’t define me,” one reads. Another one: “Addiction can affect anyone and is treatable.” At the bottom of all of them is this line: “Let’s talk openly about mental health issues. Together we can heal.”

These notices come not from a special-interest group or a medical institution, but from the City of New York. ThriveNYC, spearheaded by First Lady Chirlane McCray, is a comprehensive program intended to improve access to mental health care across the city and break down barriers to treatment, including longstanding cultural stigma. ThriveNYC, which officially launched last November, has an $850 million budget and will work with 20 city agencies on 54 initiatives. The subway banners are part of one of them, an awareness campaign called “Today I Thrive,” which brings long-silenced mental health issues out into the open.