Mental Health Reform: What It Would Really Take
In todays society there is a greater awareness of mental illnesses. With this greater awareness one might assume that there would be a substantial increase in government involvement or funding in the area of mental illness treatment. Unfortunately this isnt the case in the U.S. today.
There are hundreds of thousands of people with mental illness that go untreated. These potential patients go untreated for many reasons. These reasons are discussed in the Time article Mental Health Reform: What Would it Really Take.
The article gives some examples of what has happened to people that have not received mental treatment due to lack of government funding. These mentally ill people often dont receive treatment because the police are often picking up the mentally ill and they are not trained to diagnose mental problems so the problems go unnoticed. This can prove to be fatal.
The article tells about a New York man who asked to be hospitalized because he was terrified of phantom voices instead of the correct treatment budget conscious officials most often referred him to short term emergency care. Last year the man in a psychotic state shoved a woman from a subway platform to her death under the wheels of the train. The article also discusses some possible solutions that could help stop such tragedies. The main person that is speaking out for more government aid is vice-presidents wife Tipper Gore. Tipper openly states that she too has suffered from mental illness. She says that she had suffered with depression for a period of time.
She is advocating an increase in government funding to improve access to care for others. She would also like employers to help by providing equal insurance coverage for mental and physical health. Currently insurance plans can charge higher co-payments for psychaitric visits than for other medical care.
I feel that even if the proposals become law its only the first step to fixing this problem. The article discusses some promises made by Kennedy in 1963 to subsidize mental-health services in every community. Kennedy signed a bill to create as many as 2000 community health centers, there are just 740 today.
The insurance companies might feel a little better about supporting mental-health if they were presented with some comparisons of successful treatment between psychiatry and physical medicine. One such comparison given in the article is that 60% of those treated for schizophrenia can be successfully treated, while just 41% of those that have angioplasty can recover fully. There is a huge number of mentally ill that are homeless because theyve gone untreated. They often turn to illegal drugs to ease there pain and confusion. In my opinion this problem should be addressed quickly. There are confused mentally ill people that have been forgotten about by society that are roaming the streets.
These people can un-knowingly commit horrific crimes such as the man discussed earlier that pushed the women to her death in the New York subway. The government shouldnt be the only ones held responsible for fixing this problem, insurance companies that make millions and millions of dollars could afford to provide equal physical and mental coverage. In the article it states that you would be talking about a 6% cost increase which big business states as being huge. I think that there is a huge percentage of our population that is not properly cared for and its a shame that it will probably take some horrible act committed by a person against society that needed care and didnt receive it to bring about change.
Cloud, J.(1999, June 7).
Mental Health Reform: What it Would Really Take. TIME, Vol.#153 (issue #22), pg#s 49-53 .