Leading Mental Health Charities & Organizations

Mental health disorders are real illnesses that often cause people to suffer silently. And, unfortunately, there is still a stigma associated with them. But, having discussions and raising awareness about mental health are the first steps to combating the stigma.

Moreover, advocating for mental illness and giving back to the mental health community can be extremely powerful for both families and patients. Patient advocates even say that their advocacy work helps to strengthen their own mental health recovery. 


Ultimately, it is important to pay attention to your mental health. And activism is a way that caregivers, loved ones, patients, and all those touched by mental illness can give back to and aid others.

The following are some of the leading organizations that raise awareness and provide support and resources for mental health. They offer a number of ways to turn your suffering into action.

Mental Health America

Mental Health Organizations
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Founded in 1909, Mental Health America (MHA) is the nation’s leading community-based organization devoted to addressing the needs of people living with mental illness as well as promoting their overall mental health. This nonprofit group believes that mental health is, in fact, a critical part of overall wellness. They are an authority in mental health support, recovery, and advocacy. 

MHA’s philosophy is to address and treat mental health conditions before they cause individual suffering. They advocate for prevention services, early identification, and intervention of symptoms, and plans of action to hopefully stop or reverse the progression of mental illness.

They also offer the following services:

  • Screening tools—Quick and easy “screening tests” to determine if you are experiencing symptoms of mental illness and indicate whether you should receive further evaluation. Results include detailed information, resources, and tools to discuss with a mental health provider.
  • Local affiliates—You can provide your zip code and MHA will show you their local affiliates where you can access support and referrals.
  • Programs and advocacy work—Information on everything from back to school to workplace wellness. MHA also advocates for legislation that affects the lives of people with mental health conditions and their families. 
  • Access to help—MHA offers information on how to access help for yourself or a loved one, including valuable resources about the types of available treatments and support, how to work with a mental health provider, and tools for recovery and support.

National Institute of Mental Health

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is the leading federal agency for research on mental disorders. NIMH is one of the 27 institutes and centers that make up the National Institutes of Health which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

NIMH is the largest scientific organization dedicated to research focused on the understanding, treatment, and prevention of mental illness. It also conducts outreach to other mental health organizations to share information about ongoing research and plans and to obtain feedback for future initiatives.

Additionally, NIMH partners with these organizations in efforts to foster public awareness of the most current mental health research. They also offer multimedia presentations and a free image library.

NIMH provides trustworthy information about mental health disorders as well as information on a range of mental health topics and the latest mental health research.

If you or a loved one is considering taking part in clinical research, NIMH can equip you with information about clinical trials and how to find one at NIMH or across the country. They also have free brochures, booklets, and e-books to help educate the public about mental health and mental illness.

National Alliance on Mental Illness

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is one of the largest grassroots mental health organizations dedicated to creating better lives for Americans affected by mental illness. This group started around a kitchen table and has now become one of the nation’s trailblazing voices on mental health.

NAMI is made up of state organizations, hundreds of local affiliates, and volunteers. They provide education, hold events, provide resources, and work in the community to raise awareness and offer support to all who need it.

In addition, NAMI strives to change the way people view mental illness and to get rid of the stigma associated with it through education, advocacy, listening to the public, and leadership. NAMI also offers educational programs to a wide range of communities to make sure that families, individuals, and educators get the support and information they need.

Included in this is NAMI FaithNet—an interfaith resource network that promotes the role of spirituality in the recovery journeys of many who live with mental health illness and for whom faith is a key component. One can also call the NAMI toll-free helpline for free referrals, information, and support or visit their website to sign up for discussion/support groups or help others on their message boards.

Through their advocacy work, NAMI shapes national public policy for people with mental illness and their families. Their efforts have resulted in obtaining funding for research, protecting access to treatments and services, and making sure that mental illness is treated the same way as physical illness in most insurance plans. NAMI will also provide advocacy volunteers with the tools, resources, and skills needed to protect mental health in all states.

NAMI participates in many monthly and yearly mental health awareness events as a way to show support for people with mental illnesses and highlight the importance of mental health. Participating in a NAMI awareness event allows one to help increase people’s understanding of the complexity of mental illness as well as educate the public on and help to reduce stigma.

These events include Mental Illness Awareness Week, Awareness Messaging Campaigns for social media, NAMIWalks, and many other events.

To get involved with NAMI:

  • Join a NAMI on Campus club—A student-led, student-run mental health organization on college campuses
  • Take the Stigma-free Pledge
  • Share your story—Provide encouragement and support to others with similar experiences. NAMI offers two safe, moderated spaces to share your story (both allow for anonymous posting): You Are Not Alone and OK2Talk
  • Attend one of NAMI's educational classes
  • Take advantage of NAMI Connection Support Group and/or NAMI Family Support Group
  • Sign up for NAMI Smarts for Advocacy—A hands-on training program that will teach you how to join the advocacy movement
  • Join NAMI—Create an account and/or become a member
  • Donate to NAMI—NAMI relies on gifts and contributions to support their important work

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) is a non-profit organization dedicated to saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide.

The AFSP has chapters in all 50 states with its core strategies including providing educational programs for professionals, educating the public about mood disorders and suicide prevention, funding scientific research, offering programs and resources for survivors of suicide loss as well as people at risk, and advocating for policies and legislation that impact suicide and prevention.

The AFSP acknowledges that too many people at risk for suicide do not seek help. Thus, the organization has created educational programs to reach those who are suffering as well as teach schools, workplaces, and communities on how to prevent suicide and make mental health a priority.

AFSP has also created the Interactive Screening Program, an online program that can be offered through mental health agencies at institutions of higher education, law enforcement agencies, workplaces, and employee assistance programs.

The interactive screening program website offers a safe and confidential place for people to take a brief screening for stress, depression, and other mental health conditions and then receive a personalized response from a mental health counselor. The site allows people to communicate anonymously with the mental health counselor and receive recommendations, feedback, and support for obtaining available mental health services.

Additionally, the AFSP offers programs and resources for healing as well as a peer-supported survivor outreach program. The organization also provides volunteer opportunities for survivors who want to find meaning and healing by supporting their peers. And, if you want to help advocate for policies that will help save lives, the AFSP’s public policy team provides volunteers with the tools they will need to advocate for suicide prevention at both the state and federal levels.

Much of what we know about suicide has come from research that the AFSP has funded.

You can help promote suicide awareness and raise funds for AFSP by participating in Out of the Darkness community, campus, and overnight walks, honoring a loved one via a memorial fund, creating your own personal fundraising campaign, joining a team AFSP event, or simply making a donation. You can also get involved by becoming a member of your local chapter or by participating in one of AFSP's research studies.

Child Mind Institute

The Child Mind Institute is an independent, national nonprofit devoted to transforming the lives of children and families struggling with mental health and learning disorders. Lack of awareness and the stigma associated with mental illness prevents the treatment of many children and teens. The Child Mind Institute, however, strives to improve the futures of this population through three commitments:

  1. Provide these children with access to the best, most effective treatments when and where they need it most.
  2. Advance the science of the developing brain in order to improve diagnosis and treatment.
  3. Offer helpful, accurate information and guides that empower families and communities to get help.

This organization is an invaluable resource for parents. They provide expert guidance on how to effectively respond to a variety of parental concerns as well as offer resources that can help parents find the best care for their child. Their website also has a symptom checker tool where parents can answer questions and receive information about possible diagnoses and guidance about what to do next.

They offer a Parents Guide to Getting Good Care, which provides step-by-step assistance to parents who want to get help for their children, whatever the problem.

The Child Mind Institute is also a great resource for educators. They offer teachers classroom strategies as well as guides to help educators effectively respond to children showing signs of a mental health or learning disorder. Their clinical experts are available for media and speaking engagements and they host a visiting professor lecture series.

And, in addition to offering free online resources as well as an Ask an Expert page that contains clinician answers to questions parents have asked the organization, the institute creates high-impact awareness campaigns, like Speak Up for Kids. This is the Child Mind Institute’s annual public education campaign advocating awareness of children’s mental health issues and providing needed information to families, educators, the media, and policymakers. (Their "get involved" section offers six different ways to help change a child’s life.)

Policy & Research

  • Treatment Advocacy Center is a national nonprofit organization that is dedicated to eliminating barriers to the timely and effective treatment of severe mental illness. This organization helps to promote laws, policies, and practices for the delivery of psychiatric care and supports the new innovative treatments for and research into the causes of severe and persistent mental illness. The Treatment Advocacy Center has become an authoritative, independent voice for reforming mental health treatment laws. Their website is designed to provide the public and policymakers with reliable sources of information about state mental health treatment laws as well as information and resources for helping loved ones with severe mental illness.
  • National Council for Behavioral Health advocates for policies that help guarantee access to comprehensive, high-quality, and evidence-based mental health and substance abuse services. They are comprised of 3,326 member organizations that offer mental health and addiction treatment, and encourage their members to unite their voices in an effort to protect behavioral health care. The National Council for Behavioral Health introduced Mental Health First Aid USA through which two million Americans have been trained to identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance abuse disorders. The council offers healthcare management and quality improvement consulting and training services to health and human services organizations as well as to state and local governments to improve the quality of mental health care. They also offer a free Find a Provider service to help you find local treatments and services.
  • National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery (NCMHR) seeks to ensure that all people who are recovering or have recovered from mental illness play a major role in the development and execution of mental health care and social policies at the state and national levels. One of NCMHR’s major goals is to empower people to recover and lead a full life in the community. NCMHR represents the voices and needs of actual mental health patients. They emphasize the need for mental health service providers to treat patients with dignity and to respect their rights and choices regarding recovery and treatment. NCMHR also advocates for a wide range of recovery-oriented services and support, including assistance with housing, education, and career development.
  • Brain and Behavior Research Foundation is dedicated to reducing the suffering caused by mental illness by understanding the causes and developing new ways to treat brain and behavior disorders. They achieve this by awarding grants to fund the most innovative ideas in neuroscience and psychiatry with the goal that these studies will lead to advances and breakthroughs in scientific research. Outside of the federal government, no other organization has been responsible for more breakthroughs in the mental health field or funded the number of mental health research grants than this foundation has.

Other Resources

  • Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) is a nonprofit organization that is committed to the prevention and treatment of anxiety, depressive, obsessive-compulsive, and trauma-related disorders. The ADAA strives to improve the quality of life for people living with these mental disorders by aiming to improve patient care by advocating for evidence-based treatment. They also offer education about these disorders and can help one find a therapist who specializes in their treatment. And they provide continuing education and training and help to turn research findings into practice. Even more, the ADAA aspires to find new, effective treatments with the hope of being able to prevent and cure these disorders in the future.
  • The Trevor Project provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) youth under 25. This organization was founded in 1998 by the creators of the Academy Award-winning short film TREVOR. The Trevor Project provides certified life-saving, life-affirming, crisis intervention services to LGBTQ youth by creating a safe, accepting, and comprehensive way to communicate via the phone, online, and through text. They also have different programs and services in suicide prevention, including free online learning modules, curriculum, and resources designed for teachers and adults who work with LGBTQ youth. Their website offers the Trevor Support Center, an area where LGBTQ youth and their friends, families, and teachers can find answers to frequently asked questions as well as explore resources related to sexual orientation, gender identity, and more. TrevorSpace, an LGBTQ social networking site, is also available.
  • Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) is a peer-directed national organization that focuses on depression and bipolar disorder. DBSA offers wellness-oriented, peer-based, and empowering services and resources to those in need. One can receive these services online, in local and online support groups, and in podcasts and videos. DBSA distributes extensive information online and through printed materials. Their website offers educational materials, information about finding the right treatment, personal wellness tools, and a wellness tracker, and potential research studies that one can participate in. DBSA can also show you how to help your loved one who may be affected by depression or bipolar depression, how to become a peer provider to help others, and how to help advocate for mental health.
  • Active Minds is a nonprofit organization that empowers students to speak honestly and candidly about mental health to educate others and encourage people to seek help. The group works to create and support student-run chapters on college campuses. These campus chapters promote mental health awareness, advocacy, and education at colleges throughout the country. Active Minds aims to make students aware of mental health issues, provide information and resources about mental health and mental illness, and encourage students to seek help as soon as it is needed. The chapters offer students training and leadership opportunities as well as serve as a liaison between students and the mental health community. One of the goals of Active Minds is to remove the stigma that surrounds mental health issues. They try to achieve this through campus-wide events, national programs, and by creating an inviting environment for an open conversation about mental health issues on campuses nationwide.

A Word From Verywell

Activism is often a rewarding way to channel your passion or hardship into action. Choosing to volunteer your time or donate money to an organization can be a gratifying and meaningful way to “pay it forward” and/or help others in need.

There are many versatile and reputable organizations dedicated to raising awareness about mental health. Many of these groups offer several ways to contribute and make a difference in the lives of others.

This is just a list of some of the leading mental health organizations. Some are broader than others. If you are thinking about supporting a charity, it’s important that you do your own research. That way, you can find the organization that feels like the best fit for your goals.

Finding a way to give back to the mental health community may even boost your own recovery and allow you to cultivate meaningful connections to other advocates along the way.

By Dawn Stacey, PhD, LMHC
Dawn Stacey, PhD, LMHC, is a published author, college professor, and mental health consultant with over 15 years of counseling experience.