A New Frame of Mind

This guide profiles seven philanthropic foundations that are solving problems in mental health and substance abuse today. For each foundation, there is a description of its approach, some of its most influential initiatives, and how its efforts fit into the broader mental health landscape. Most of these subjects have a local focus, and a long view on bringing improvements to their communities. One—the Well Being Trust—was created in 2016 to promote mental health across the nation.

The field of mental health has long struggled with definitional issues, and our understanding of the complex ways that the brain, environment, and experience interact to create a psychiatric status is rapidly changing. Some analysts focus on hard molecular, genetic, and neurocircuit markers of illness. Broader approaches include factors like life purpose and meaning. The philanthropists profiled use a range of definitions and demonstrate that it is possible to help people even when experts don’t fully understand the nature of brain health and disease.

Many observers question whether mental illness and substance abuse are different or interconnected conditions. Because they share many symptoms and effects, and because many useful solutions address both problems, both are included in this paper.