Raise your hand if one of your goals for the New Year was to volunteer or give back more (FYI, I'm raising my hand along with you!). The good news: there are so many amazing organizations out there that can use your help. The only problem is, with so many options and causes to care about, it's hard to figure out where to set your focus.
Mental health is something that often gets overlooked (mostly due to the stigma surrounding mental illness) but definitely deserves attention—especially considering 1 in 5 adults experiences mental illness in a given year, and 1 in 5 young people ages 13-18 will experience a severe mental disorder at some point during their life (statistics from the National Alliance on Mental Illness).
These organizations work to educate and reduce stigma, advocate policy and help people in need, so they're worth considering if you're looking for more opportunities to get involved. And if you or someone you love needs help, support or resources related to mental health, these are some great ones to look into.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) started in 1979 and is the largest grassroots mental health organization in the country. The organization's work does four important things: educate individuals and communities about mental health, advocate for public policy to help people with mental illness, lead the charge to raise awareness for mental health issues, and listen to people in need. NAMI has a toll-free helpline—1-800-950-NAMI (6264)—staffed by professionals who can answer questions about mental illness symptoms, treatment options, legal issues, local support groups, and more.
How you can help: Take the organization's pledge to fight stigma, learn about volunteer opportunities, find an event, and donate or become a member here.
Mental Health America (MHA) was founded in 1909 and has since become the leading community-based nonprofit in the US to work to promote the importance of mental health and help those with mental illness. MHA focuses on policy and advocacy as well as education and outreach through its many programs, including the MHA annual conference and May is Mental Health Month. The organization's website offers mental health screening tools, and can help you figure out what to do if you or someone you know may be dealing with mental illness or facing a crisis.
How you can help: Find out how to volunteer, donate, attend events and share your story here.
The mission of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) is to save lives and bring hope to people affected by suicide. AFSP has been around since 1987, and the organization's main strategies involve educating the public, advocating for public policies, funding scientific research, and offering support to survivors, family members and loved ones who have been affected by suicide. There are local chapters in every state across the country, so you can get involved no matter where you live.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a 24/7 resource for people dealing with a suicidal crisis. It's made up of more than 160 local centers and offers emotional support that is totally free and confidential for anyone in need. The organization's website has specific resources for young people, veterans, Native Americans, the LGBTQ+ community, attempt and loss survivors and more—it even has resources for coping with change from major political or community events.
How you can help: You can learn all about donating, volunteering and ways to offer support through the organization here.
The Trevor Project was founded in 1988 to provide crisis intervention and emotional support to young people (ages 13-24) in the LGBTQ+ community. Through its numerous programs—ally training, on-campus education, training for adults and more—The Trevor Project provides help, education and emotional support for young people and everyone around them. And young people in need can call the Trevor Lifeline, a national 24/7 helpline, at 1-866-488-7386 or use the organization's text message or online chat options to get support.
To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) is a non-profit that aims to help people dealing with—and educate people about—depression, self-harm, addiction, and suicide. It started in 2006 as a means to help one person—a 19-year-old named Renee who was struggling with depression and addiction (you can read her story here) —and grew into an organization with a larger mission. TWLOHA focuses on engaging people and fundraising, and the organization is heavily tied to the music community and has been widely promoted by popular musicians over the years.
How you can help: You can donate directly here, or purchase merchandise from their store here. You can also find out how to participate in fundraising, events and campaigns—and how to bring TWLOHA to your community—here.