Appalling Lack of Mental Health Resources

Appalling Lack of Mental Health Resources
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Without a doubt, there have been many advances made by the hard workers in the medical community. For example, there have been countless new treatments available for people with diseases that used to be universally lethal, such as diabetes and AIDS/HIV. Despite these successes, there have been some areas of the medical world that have been overlooked. One of the most pressing needs in this country is mental health resources; however, these continue to be passed over for funding and research opportunities. When this happens, some of the people who need help the most are ignored. What are some of the reasons that this might be and what are some of the ways that this can be fixed?

Why Has the Mental Health Community Been Overlooked?

When people hear about how people with mental health issues have been overlooked, one of the first questions is why? If these people need so much assistance from those around them, why have they repeatedly been ignored? There are several reasons why this might be. First, many mental health disorders are “invisible.” This isn’t to say that people cannot see them; however, mental health disorders cannot be diagnosed with a test. They do not show up on an MRI scan. They don’t return positive blood tests. Because of this, people with mental health issues do not present as a measurable “value” on a medical test. This makes it easier for people to ignore the results. Next, many people think that mental health disorders are something to just “get over.” For some reason, people continue to doubt the validity of mental health disorders despite the overwhelming number of medical professionals who endorse the harm that they can cause. When someone thinks that someone with a mental health disorder should simply “get over it,” they delegitimize the strife that not only that individual but also the people around them are going through. This makes it harder for this pressing area of the medical community to obtain funding. Finally, people are simply made uncomfortable by mental health disorders. When someone in the neighborhood is involved in a car accident or has been diagnosed with cancer, the entire community often bands together to help a family in need. Where is this kind of assistance for people with mental health disorders? It simply isn’t there. If the local community doesn’t come together to help these people, then the country as a whole will not either. For these reasons, and many others, mental health continues to lack the funding that its fellow diseases receive. This contributes to an overall lack of resources despite the obvious fact that it is needed.

Mental Health Disorders: By the Numbers

Yes, the stress that mental health disorders place on the individual, their families, their friends, and the community as a whole is obvious. Despite this, it is important to place mental health disorders in an objective light as well. Some important statistics on mental health include:

  • 1 in 5: Almost 20 percent of adults in the United States will experience some form of a mental health issue in the course of a year. This is well over 40 million Americans
  • 10 million: 1 in 25 adults in the United States will experience some form of mental health illness that will significant impair their ability to perform an activity that they enjoy. This is almost 10 million people.
  • Children Struggle As Well: Over 20 percent of teenagers are going to experience some form of a mental health problem at some point.
  • Substance Abuse: 50 percent of adults with a substance abuse or addiction disorder has a mental illness as a concurrent diagnosis. Clearly, the two are intertwined.
  • A Variety of Illnesses: Mental health disorders can come in many different forms. Close to 7 percent of adults will experience a major depressive episode during the course of a year. Over 2 percent of adults have bipolar disorder. Over 1 percent of adults in the country have schizophrenia.

Clearly, millions of Americans struggle with mental problems that come in all different shapes and sizes; however, many of these Americans search and search for help that is simply nowhere to be found. What are some of the consequences of this neglect?

Consequences Are Felt Everywhere

Because of the unmet need that these individuals have, there are numerous consequences that they, and the rest of the country, feel as a result. Some of these consequences include:

Economic Cost: Because of the mental illnesses that these people suffer from, they often do not receive the financial reward that they otherwise would. This results in close to $200 billion in lost earnings for these individuals on an annual basis.

Hospitalization: Many of these mood disorders require inpatient treatment for a full recovery. Mood disorders represent the third most common cause of hospitalizations for adults ages 18 to 44 in this country.

Earlier Death: Those who have been diagnosed with a mental health condition have a shortened life expectancy. Studies have placed this number at a lifespan of almost 25 years less.

Lack of Education: Close to 40 percent of students who have a mental health condition will drop out of either high school of college depending on their age.

Impact on Veterans: Soldiers who return to this country after defending it often have a mental health disorder. This often goes untreated and leads to suicide at a rate of around 20 veterans per day.

What Should be Done?

Without a doubt, the lack of mental health resources is having an impact on this country at multiple levels. Many people find themselves wondering what can be done to alleviate the drain that this is taking on people with mental health disorders, their families, and the country as a whole. First, awareness is key. This means that people need to pay attention to those who need mental help and realize that they are people as well. Reach out an offer a hand to those in need. This will help to alleviate the stigma that still exists around mental health as a whole. Next, people should feel free to volunteer their time at mental health clinics, shelters, and even the local hospital. This will provide assistance in filling in the gap between need and resources. Finally, as this area receives the attention that it deserves, it will be important for mental health to receive funding. People can provide assistance with this by donating their money, campaigning for research funding, and contacting government officials to try and encourage national funding for mental health research and resources. Charities and medical professionals alike need help providing resources to a population in need.

Mental health disorders continue to languish in the obscurity of the medical community. The only way that this is going to change is if people start to pay attention. Only by listening to the cries for help will the stigma start to fade and the research attention start to pour in. Perhaps one day, there will be bountiful mental health resources available for a communtiy that so badly needs it; however, until that day, people should start by listening. There are always voices that are yearning to be heard.

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David R is a writer who contributes to the Academy Alert.

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