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Mental Illness & Health Part 2

January 8, 2014

Why am I posting this now? Other then the whole one-year-later thing? Because of this. I read that article and my mind, one year later, went back to that sentence. “No one will pay attention to you unless you’ve got charges.” I went back to that blog. It took a while to find it, it didn’t stay on my ‘must read’ list, I’m sad to say. I wish it had. She’s done a lot in the past year in regards to advocating for treatment availability. Even better, they have a diagnosis for her son and medication that has helped him be who he wants to be without the swings. But we still have the problem of people not getting treatment, or getting treatment only if they’re charged with something, and then only until they’re released or off probation.

So, what can we do about it? How can we go about treating this? It’s a problem across the spectrum of our society, and one we need to address. In 1963 Congress passed the Community Mental Health Act that was supposed to lead to the creation of a large number of community-based care centers. What happened? The usual. Half were built, none funded fully, and the concept just faded into the background over the next few decades as the state psychiatric hospitals were closed. The overall takeaway? Nowhere near enough beds or clinicians to care for the people who need help. Econ 101 now, a scarcity of resources leads to an increase in cost. Cost of care goes up, coverage goes down, care becomes harder to get, and we wind up in a situation where people don’t get care until they’ve committed a crime, if then.

I’m not saying we need to bring back mass-institutionalization, that wouldn’t solve our problems. I’m saying we need to look at ways as a society to improve care. Let’s start with removing the stigma. People have no more control over a mental illness than they do any other disease. It’s not a matter of being ‘tougher’, of ‘looking on the bright side’ or ‘relaxing’. It’s not that they’re ‘too stressed’ or ‘always angry’, it’s a no-shit disease that needs to be treated. Let’s expand the psychiatric wards we have, add more clinics, and find a way to increase interest in that field. How? I don’t know. I do know that ignoring it isn’t working, and just throwing a pile of cash at it will do no more good than it did with education or airport security. But it’s something that needs to be done, and soon. We’re failing those who need help, and their families. That’s not acceptable.

Ideas?

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