In Focus: Mental Health Nonprofits

By Kathleen M. O'Donnell, YNPNdc volunteer. 

YNPNdc In Focus is our blog series highlighting nonprofits in the DC area that correspond with awareness months and timely topics. This month, we’re focusing on Mental Health Nonprofits in honor of National Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more online by following #mhm2018.


In DC, we are uniquely positioned to raise our voices and work to create awareness about important issues. Every May, the U.S. rallies to support those affected by mental health conditions through National Mental Health Awareness Month. Congress passed the National Mental Health Act in 1946, precipitating the creation of the National Institute of Mental Health and eventually the establishment of May as the official awareness month. Since the 1940s, Mental Health remains a critical part of national policy work, led by the bipartisan Congressional Mental Health Caucus.

Nonprofits are critical to raising awareness and providing services supporting people in need. Hundreds of mental health-focused nonprofits have been established across the country, including many right here in the metro DC area. These organizations come in many shapes and sizes. Some are small and local, offering direct support services to people with mental health conditions. Others are national networks and advocacy groups that lead awareness efforts. If you’re interested in policy development, volunteering, or are seeking a new job, here are some mental health-focused nonprofits in our area for your consideration.

National organizations, US Government, and associations

Mental Health America

Mental Health America, established in 1909, is community-based nonprofit headquartered in Alexandria, VA. MHA has affiliates across the country that work to promote mental health as a critical part of wellness through educational resources, advocacy, and support programs. Learn how you can get involved or find employment.

National Council for Behavioral Health

With 2,900 member organizations, the National Council for Behavioral Health unites and serves providers committed to hiqh-quality care. Their signature program, Mental Health First Aid USA, trains thousands of Americans every year to respond to mental health crises. The National Council also advocates, educates, and provides support for mental health organizations and those suffering from behavioral health conditions. You can work with them in DC or check out their job board,

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Based in Rockville, MD, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) aims to mitigate the impact of mental illness and substance abuse. Their services locators and hotlines are widely used by those seeking assistance in combating the effects of mental illness and addiction. As a an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, SAMHSA conducts studies and provides grants to nonprofit organizations that support its mission.

National Alliance on Mental Illness

NAMI is an association of hundreds of organizations and thousands of members who provide support and education about mental health and mental health services. Being a member of NAMI means you are committed to improving mental health in your community. Headquartered in Arlington, VA, NAMI offers a variety of ways to get involved, or you can apply for a job at NAMI here.

National Institute of Mental Health
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is the lead federal agency for research on mental disorders. NIMH is one of the 27 Institutes and Centers that make up the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the largest biomedical research agency in the world. NIH is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).  

There are many other national associations based in the metro area serving mental health professionals and organizations including American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, Anxiety Disorders Association of America, the National Association of Social Workers, American Counseling Association, American Psychiatric Nurses Association, and American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.

Local organizations

DC Behavioral Health Association

The DC Behavioral Health Association is comprised of over 40 members organizations who provide services covering all aspects of mental health. Together, they advocate for fair policies and treatment of those suffering from behavioral health conditions.

Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services

PRS provides support and recovery services to individuals in the greater DC area living with mental illness, substance use disorders, mild intellectual disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, and those facing crises. Their programs, including CrisisLink, have aided thousands of local residents. Learn how you can join the PRS team as a volunteer or employee.

Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law

For more than 40 years, the Bazelon Center has has been a critical advocate for equity and inclusion of people with mental disabilities. They offer a variety of careers, fellowships, and internships, primarily for those interested in law and legal studies.

DC is also home to a wide range of community nonprofits with mental health components, including Mary’s Center, N Street Village, DC Rape Crisis Center, The Women’s Center. For a full list of community-based service providers, see the DC Department of Behavioral Health list.

If you or someone you know needs immediate access to resources, you can get help from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the DC Department of Behavioral Health.

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