Mental Health in America
By: Isabella Nilsson
There is a problem in America. It’s not poverty and it’s not racism and it’s not bureaucracy and it’s not the stagnant economy and it’s not the lack of affordable higher education and it’s not the social stratification and it’s not the lack of affordable anything–it is a combination of all of these problems and it is one that we are repulsed by and reluctant to talk about.
The insane are being given short shrift in America. That is; our mental health care system sucks.
One in five Americans experienced some kind of mental illness in the past year. To be mentally ill is similar to being physically ill in that it is debilitating and expensive–psychologists’ fees run into the hundreds of dollars an hour (and sometimes it’s necessary to meet as much as four or five times a week for a decade or longer), and insurance, if it covers the cost of analysis at all, pays for so little that the mentally ill can’t find anyone to treat them. Medication and institutionalization is even more expensive, let alone a stay-at-home caregiver. And yet, these things are necessary. We lock away a deeply autistic man or a woman with schizophrenia because it is cheaper and easier than medicating him or her and finding doctors that fit his or her needs and interacting with him or her on the street and in the home as a person, despite how it may make things for us, the sane, slightly more confusing and slightly less comfortable.
Mental illness is different in that it is not recognized as legitimate. 20% of those suffering from anorexia prematurely die. Over 60% of those who commit suicide are suffering from major depression. A veteran in America kills himself every 65 minutes. In many cases, a mental disease is more terrifying, and more lethal, than a physical one.
My mother is a psychoanalyst. She sees people for free that need more care than they can afford. She refers them to a psychiatrist, her friend. But she alone can’t save every suicidal college student, can’t treat every depressed new mother, or keep at bay the delusions of every paranoid psychotic. (How lonely they must be, living in their own little world where everyone wants to hurt them!)
We are abandoning Americans, to unhappy lives and, sometimes, death. All because they are different, and they are difficult to understand.
There is a solution to this problem. Increase education about the mentally ill and increase coverage for their treatment in our insurance plans. Agitate. Pass legislation. If future voters want a change to be made, legislators will listen.
It is not easy, but it is right.
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