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New Awareness Initiative Supports Early Dialogue and Decision-Making for Individuals at Risk for a Mental Health Crisis and their Families.

"My Plan, My Life - My Psychiatric Advance Directive"

Important New Resource for Caregivers, Loved Ones

ALEXANDRIA, Va., Nov. 29, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- November is National Family Caregivers Month, which recognizes the more than 50 million family caregivers in the United States who are an essential part of a patient's health care team. To meet the evolving needs of caregivers, Mental Health America and the National Resource Center on Psychiatric Advance Directives have enhanced My Plan, My Life: My Psychiatric Advance Directive, a new online resource and awareness initiative on the importance of psychiatric advance directives as a tool to communicate decisions about one's care during a mental health crisis.

A psychiatric advance directive is a legal document completed in a time of wellness that provides instructions regarding treatment or services one wishes to have or not have during a mental health crisis.

My Plan, My Life: My Psychiatric Advance Directive, which is sponsored by Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation, includes material and resources developed by the National Resource Center on Psychiatric Advance Directives (, a nonprofit organization that offers a state-by-state guide to laws, rules, forms and other information. My Plan, My Life: My Psychiatric Advance Directive ( answers some of the most frequent questions caregivers and their loved ones have about psychiatric advance directives and provides a step-by-step guide on how to create one.

"I am excited to be a part of the My Plan, My Life: My Psychiatric Advance Directive program which informs people with mental illness, their families and health care professionals of this important tool," said Dr. Marvin Swartz, professor and head, Division of Social and Community Psychiatry at the Duke University School of Medicine, and a leading researcher with the Resource Center. "Through my research, I have seen firsthand how the process of completing a psychiatric advance directive can create open dialogue and improve the relationships between mental health patients, health care representatives and caregivers. I have also seen the positive impact these important tools have on patients' long term treatment and care."

In response to the strong interest the awareness initiative has generated, it has been enhanced to better serve people at risk of a mental health crisis and their caregivers who may be faced with making health decisions on their behalf at this critical juncture. Printed material that contains top-line information about psychiatric advance directives, their benefits and legal considerations are being provided to community mental health and behavioral health centers that they can share with individuals, caregivers and health care professionals in a group setting or in one-to-one meetings. In addition, a toolkit has been developed for centers, which includes the process for completing a psychiatric advance directive and a list of state-specific laws and statutes to help increase awareness of this tool.

Psychiatric advance directives allow patients to specify considerations about their mental health treatment and appoint an agent, including a caregiver, to speak on their behalf in the event of a mental health crisis. Completing a psychiatric advance directive prepares families and caregivers for times of crisis. In some cases, patients may also give further background information about how they have reacted to past treatment.

Despite these benefits, psychiatric advance directives are an underutilized tool in mental health care. A survey of more than 1,000 psychiatric outpatients in five U.S. cities concluded the underuse of psychiatric advance directives in the United States. It found that while about 70 percent of people in public-sector treatment would like to complete a psychiatric advance directive (and say they would do so if provided assistance), fewer than 1 in 10 have actually completed one.(i)

For more information about psychiatric advance directives, please visit

(i) Swanson J, Swartz M, Ferron J, Elbogen EB, Van Dom R: Psychiatric advance directives among public mental health consumers in five U.S. cities: prevalence, demand, and correlates. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law 2005

Mental Health America ( ) is the nation's largest and oldest community-based network dedicated to helping all Americans achieve wellness by living mentally healthier lives. With our more than 240 affiliates across the country, we touch the lives of millions-Advocating for changes in mental health and wellness policy; Educating the public & providing critical information; and delivering urgently needed mental health and wellness Programs and Services.

SOURCE Mental Health America
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Nov 29, 2011
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