Sunday, June 09, 2013

Does it make sense that only 40 percent of people with mental illness get treatment?

Sure, you've heard statistics about mental illness many times. But this time it comes from the President at the National Conference on Mental Health he convened at the White House earlier this week:
The truth is, in any given year, one in five adults experience a mental illness -- one in five.  Forty-five million Americans suffer from things like depression or anxiety, schizophrenia or PTSD.  Young people are affected at a similar rate.  So we all know somebody -- a family member, a friend, a neighbor -- who has struggled or will struggle with mental health issues at some point in their lives.  Michelle and I have both known people who have battled severe depression over the years, people we love.  And oftentimes, those who seek treatment go on to lead happy, healthy, productive lives.
One in five adults experience a mental illness in any given year. Last year was my year for severe depression. This year was my year for a heart attack. When my wife called 911 on Jan. 2, she gave them my symptoms, the EMTs arrived within minutes and the I was zooming off to the ER and was taken care of immediately. Heart disease gets attention.

The year before, when I was having sever depression in the gloomy month of March, I had to call around to get a psychiatrist since my old one had moved away. I found one, a good one, who could see me fairly quickly (I have insurance) and during the course of the next few months found the right combination of meds for me. Trial and error. It's often like that with mental illness. We have a slew of medications foe depression but what works for you may not work for me. The brain and the central nervous system are complicated. People are complicated. One day we may get drugs that are targeted in the way of some cancer meds. 

There's more:
First, we’ve got to do a better job recognizing mental health issues in our children, and making it easier for Americans of all ages to seek help.  Today, less than 40 percent of people with mental illness receive treatment -- less than 40 percent.  Even though three-quarters of mental illnesses emerge by the end of -- by the age of 24, only about half of children with mental health problems receive treatment.  Now think about it:  We wouldn’t accept it if only 40 percent of Americans with cancers got treatment.  We wouldn’t accept it if only half of young people with diabetes got help.  Why should we accept it when it comes to mental health?  It doesn't make any sense.
I'm in good shape for 62. I've been getting help for depression since I was in college. Before my heart attack, I had lost 40 pounds and was swimming every other day at the YMCA. I've patterned my own diet after my diabetic wife's. I have insurance.

Only 40 percent of my us with mental illness get treatment. Sixty percent of us do not. The President is right when he says that it doesn't make any sense.

Both of my children have received treatment for mental illness and substance abuse. Half of their peers never get help. We hope that the Affordable Care Act will help. But what about those red states such as Wyoming that are fighting a pitched battle over the ACA, Medicaid expansion, and any other health program that makes sense. Wyoming doesn't have a single child psychiatrist for the thousands of children who need one. Cities and towns have mental health professionals but the rural areas that make up most of Wyoming do not.

Thanks, President Obama, for convening a mental health summit. Much has been done but much more needs to be done. It's a long and winding road...

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