Mental Health care In The United States
In a series of articles focusing on the current state of mental health care in the United States, American newspaper USA Today has offered a glimpse at the pervasive social costs of inadequate mental health care treatment given to millions of people suffering from severe mental disorders in society.
The series, titled “Cost of Not Caring: Mental Illness in America, ” shares sympathetic vignettes of several individuals’ personal struggles with mental illness, while also managing to tie these particular cases into wider societal trends such as the dismantling of social programs, the growth of the prison system, and the wave of mass shootings that continually plague the country.
While couching most of its criticism in terms of cost inefficiencies and appeals to authorities for reforms, the report is noteworthy for its exposure of such mass social conditions. One article bluntly states: “The mentally ill who have nowhere to go and find little sympathy from those around them often land hard in emergency rooms, county jails, and city streets. The lucky ones find homes with family. The unlucky ones show up in the morgue.”
According to statistics released by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), roughly one in every four adult Americans experiences a mental illness in any given year. About 13.6 million (about 6 percent of the population) live with a serious and potentially life-threatening condition, such as bipolar disorder, major depression, or schizophrenia. The USA Today series cites the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which indicates that 40 percent of those suffering from these severe conditions received no treatment at all in the preceding year. This figure rises to 60 percent when considering all individuals with some form of mental health issue.
Suicide now claims the lives of an estimated 38, 000 Americans a year. This is more than car accidents or homicides, making it the tenth leading cause of death in the country. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reports that the overwhelming majority (90 percent) of suicide cases in the United States are directly related to an existing mental health condition.
NIMH estimates that the inadequacy of mental health care cost the country $444 billion a year, with the bulk of this figure coming from lost economic productivity. Even though research indicates that early intervention is the best method of halting mental health crises before they develop into more severe conditions, the average person with a mental health problem only receives treatment a decade after their symptoms first begin to appear. Many only receive help once they become acutely psychotic, meaning that they begin to experience delusions, hallucinations, or other distortions in their perception of reality.