Mill Valley News

A mental illness epidemic is sweeping our nation and we must push for change

Millions of adults in the U. S. struggle with mental illness yet there is a scarcity of facilities and programs available to help them

Claire Boone, JagWire managing editor

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Growing up with a family member who has suffered from mental illness has made me realize just how serious these illnesses can be. To keep it short, I have a family member that has struggled with addiction and has been in and out of rehabilitation facilities as well as mental wellness centers across this nation. However, he is still the same person that was when he entered these programs and his stay was never long enough to encourage change anyway.

When someone is battling with an internal force they may feel like there is no hope and nowhere to turn for help; the disappointing reality is that they are not completely wrong.

Treatment options available for those struggling with maintaining mental wellness are extremely scarce, only perpetuating the mental health epidemic that is sweeping our nation.”

My dad recently sent me an article regarding the lack of facilities available to treat those with mental illnesses in the U.S., and the data was nothing short of frustrating. A 2012 report by the Treatment Advocacy Center found that from 2005 to 2010, the number of psychiatric beds decreased by 14 percent. Additionally, in 2012 there were only 50,509 state psychiatric beds available, meaning that per 100,000 individuals that needed extended care, there were only 14 beds available.

With the influx of people who struggle with mental health, as reported by author Judith Weissman, PhD, a research manager at NYU Langone Medical Center, more than 8 million Americans are suffering from serious psychological distress (SPD) — a term used to identify individuals that are at high risk of mental illness that impairs physical functioning.

This impairment is often dismissed by individuals who do not understand its severity. The physical effects of not maintaining a healthy mind are extremely real. These need to be affirmed and understood by everyone, otherwise, these people may not feel like they have a safe place to ask for help.

With the great inaccessibility of overnight care and facilities of that nature, these people are tackling this alone. Additionally, when this type of care is available the cost is absolutely outrageous. People are being charged thousands of dollars for an illness that they have no control over and that is constantly being downplayed by those around them.

Constantly telling them that “it gets better” and “there is hope” is not going to do them any good anymore. Every individual battling with this deserves a fighting chance, and we have to create that for them somehow. It is our responsibility to not just tell them there is hope, but to finally give it to them.

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A mental illness epidemic is sweeping our nation and we must push for change