Thresholds

Advocacy: Raising Our Voices to Move Mental Health Forward

Advocacy: Raising Our Voices to Move Mental Health Forward

By Amber Kirchhoff

On May 1, Thresholds kicked off Mental Health Awareness Month by convening people with lived experience, health care and human service providers, and policymakers from across the state for our annual Mental Health Policy Forum. The Policy Forum served not only as an opportunity to learn from national experts and experienced state leaders, but as a chance to reimagine ourselves as advocates for the reforms and investment needed to transform the mental health system.

During the Policy Forum, several members of Illinois’ mental health community spoke of commonly faced challenges to accessing the care and supports needed to manage mental health conditions. Because of stigma and a general lack of information about mental illnesses, often many years go by before receiving a diagnosis. Even with an awareness of a mental health condition, accessing treatment and housing can be extremely difficult because of the underfunded, overly complex system of care that is currently in place. As a result, far too many spiral into disability, begin to self-medicate, cycle in and out of the hospital, or find themselves entangled with the justice system.

These tragedies are avoidable and Illinois can and must do better. We as advocates play an important role in bringing about needed changes and ensuring that no one is allowed to continue to fall between the cracks. Like most other health conditions, mental illness is treatable. In order to build a system that works, we must strengthen early identification and treatment, build service capacity so everyone who needs care gets it, ensure affordable housing as a foundation for treatment, grow the mental health workforce, and improve insurance coverage for proven treatments. Together this package of policy solutions represent the bedrock of our Road Map to Mental Health Reform.

Mental Health Awareness Month provides an important opportunity to challenge stigma and to start conversations about the critical need for treatment that works. At Thresholds, we work to advance those conversations and inspire mental health advocates all year round. As a community, we know what works; and together change is possible.

Interested in how you can raise your voice as an advocate? Learn more about the Road Map to Mental Health Reform and sign up for Thresholds’ action alerts today!


Amber Kirchhoff is an experienced public policy professional who has worked both in state government and with non-profit organizations. Currently, she holds the role of Policy Associate at Thresholds, supporting the agency’s government relations and advocacy efforts. Prior to joining Thresholds, Amber served as a Policy Analyst under the administration for former Illinois Governor Pat Quinn. She previously earned a Master’s of Political Science through the Civic Leadership Program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.