Timely Topics

Timely Topics

Shortage of Mental Health Professionals Hurts Care

Written By: Jane Mogravero, Executive Director
Published in the Buffalo News January 6, 2018

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) defines a mental illness as a medical condition that affects a person’s thinking, feeling or mood. It permeates all races, religions and socio-economic backgrounds.

The statistics on mental illnesses are staggering  

  • One in five American adults has a diagnosable mental illness 
  • One half of all chronic mental illnesses begin by age 14 
  • The average delay between onset of symptoms and treatment is 10 years
  • Serious mental illnesses cost the United States $193 billion in lost earnings 


Despite its prevalence and far reaching impact of mental illness, serious challenges, such as stigma and affordability of care, remain for individuals in need of treatment.  Last year 60% of Americans with mental health conditions did not receive care.

Here in Western New York, one of the factors significantly impacting access to care is the shortage of mental health professionals – specifically psychiatrists and psychologists.  The region has been designated by the federal government as a mental health professional shortage area.  While there is considerable need in the rural communities, the lack of practitioners extends as well to Buffalo and other urban areas.   

Mental illness is a community issue that requires community solutions. The Patrick P. Lee Foundation recognizes this and has selected mental health as one of its two primary areas of investment.  The Lee Foundation partners with mental health providers, educational institutions, community advocates and fellow funders to ensure the Western New York community is well-informed about mental health, inclusive of individuals with mental illness and served by high quality, accessible mental health services.

The Lee Foundation recognizes that it is critical to recruit and retain psychiatrists and psychologists to meet the mental health needs of the region.  Through its educational partners, it is creating scholarships for a variety of mental health careers.  And at the present time, the Lee Foundation already funds scholarships for fourth year medical students who are interested in psychiatry and committed to working in Western New York.

While the long term goal is to increase the number of mental health professionals, it is imperative that the capacity of mental health providers be enhanced and those already dedicating themselves to working in the mental health field be supported.  To that end, the Lee Foundation will be providing free professional development opportunities and training in innovative treatment techniques.  

The good news is that there is hope and recovery is possible.  With proper treatment and support, individuals living with mental health challenges can lead productive, fulfilling lives. 

To learn more about mental health conditions and how you can make a difference visit www.letstalkstigma.org.


Wrong to Equate Mental Illness with Violence

Written By: Jane Mogavero, Executive Director
November 8, 2017

In the wake of the tragedies in Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs, our country is left trying to make sense of senseless and brutal crimes.

There are no simple answers and the underlying issues are complex.  Some seek to equate mental illness to violence.  This does not properly take into account available science and research.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness defines mental illness as a medical condition that affects a person’s thinking, feeling or mood. Such conditions may impact someone’s ability to relate to others and function each day.

1 in 5 Americans (approximately 43.8 million adults) experiences a mental health illness in any given year.  The vast majority of these individuals lead productive, fulfilling lives in their communities.  Yet mental health conditions are poorly understood and the subject of widespread misconceptions and unfounded fears.

Research shows that individuals living with mental illness are not more prone to violence.  In fact, according to the National Institute of Health, individuals with serious mental illness, far from being perpetrators of violence, are 11 times more likely to be victims of violent crimes.   

At the Lee Foundation we envision a community that is well-informed about mental health, inclusive of individuals with mental illness and served by high quality, accessible mental health services.  To achieve this, we are raising awareness about mental illness by providing opportunities for community dialogue and education.   

We are the lead funder of Join the Conversation, an anti-stigma campaign that invites community members to share their stories of struggle, recovery and hope. The goal is to end the stigma associated with mental illness. This campaign provides resources for those seeking help and dispels the many myths associated with mental health conditions.

The Lee Foundation also supports Compeer Buffalo’s Mental Health First Aid Program.  Mental Health First Aid teaches community members how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. This training gives the skills needed to provide initial support to someone who may be developing a mental health or substance use problem or experiencing a crisis.

Mental illness affects all races, religions and socio-economic backgrounds. It is a community health issue that requires community action.  To learn more about mental illness visit www.letstalkstigma.org and take the pledge to end stigma.