Has the Mental Health System Failed?

More than 40 million Americans deal with some form of anxiety or depression or another mental health issue yearly. People turn to games, television yogis, video tutorials, blogs, Facebook posts, and other digital methods to deal with their mental health problems. Do you see something wrong with this picture?

There’s plenty of access to care for cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, paralysis, pneumonia, bronchitis, and various other diseases or injuries. However, there isn’t much out there for mental health. There aren’t hospitals or emergency departments dedicated to treating panic or anxiety attacks because the mental health system has failed.

Mental illness and homelessness

One of the biggest problems in the United States when it comes to mental health is homelessness. A recent study found that 25 percent of homeless people suffer from some form of severe mental health issues. This is in comparison to just two percent of the overall population meeting the criteria to be diagnosed with bipolar I disorder or schizophrenia.

Many homeless in the country rely on their Medicaid coverage to obtain mental health coverage, which can take months to establish care. At the same time, general practitioners prefer not to treat these serious mental health issues.

Mental health and children

Children are not immune to the stressors of the real world no matter their age. They worry and stress about schoolwork, friends, home life, and much more. There needs to be a better focus on the mental health of children, especially when the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health claims that half of all the mental illness cases in the country begin prior to a child turning 14. Even with this claim, there is a shortage of mental health professionals for children in the country. This issue has been explored as far back as 2007 in a report from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration:

“There is a critical shortage of individuals trained to meet the needs of children and youth, and their families. As just one example, the federal government has projected the need for 12,624 child and adolescent psychiatrists by 2020, which far exceeds the projected supply of 8,312. There currently are only 6,300 child and adolescent psychiatrists nationwide, with relatively few located in rural and low-income areas.”

How does the system fail?

The system fails those suffering from mental health issues in more ways than one, including:

  • Physical ailments are viewed to be more important than ailments you cannot see (stress, anxiety, depression, fear, etc.)
  • Mental health patients are separated from the pack when they are issued an insurance card. The phone number to call for mental health services differs than the number for physical care
  • It is more difficult to secure access to services for mental health than for a physical ailment
  • A multitude of mental health services are not covered by insurance, leaving patients to decide between seeking care or using the money for something else

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