Mental and behavioral health is one of, if not the most, neglected area of health care in the entire world.
There are a number of Americans of various socio-economic backgrounds who are struggling with mental illness and the overwhelming disparities and stigma greatly impact the level of care and how that care is executed to those diagnosed with a mental illness.
Understanding the gravity of mental and behavioral illness and acknowledging that safely managing mental illness is equally as important as a physical medical condition is critical to rehabilitating America’s crippled mental health system. Obtaining proper care once a person has been diagnosed with a mental health condition is ever elusive. Namely due to limited access to mental health services for reasons that include, but are by no means limited to:
- Location – Psychiatric services in some communities, especially rural areas, are far and in between. For those mental health patients who are actually followed in the community by a medical practitioner, these practitioners are usually primary-care doctors who do not specialize in psychiatric illnesses and have restrictive authority on the use of prescribing psychotropic drugs (medications used to treat/manage mental illnesses).
- Uninsured and Underinsured – Persons who suffer from severe mental illness have great difficulty maintaining employment, thus without insurance coverage and funds to pay for an insurance policy. Not to mention the working poor who do maintain employment yet still cannot afford adequate insurance coverage, but are not eligible for state funded insurance coverage.
- Insurance Companies Reign Supreme – Those who do have adequate insurance coverage can still be faced with limited access to appropriate therapies just as those who suffer from physical medical conditions. Many insurance policies do not cover the cost of mental health therapies, specifically for inpatient therapies, leaving the policy-holder responsible for expensive out-of-pocket fees. The caveat, if you view the cup as half full, is that patients tend to have coverage for psychotropic drugs as a means of treating and managing symptoms, but for some drugs only combat half the problem. Also, health care reform – The Affordable Care Act – proposed by the Obama administration in 2010 have begun to address this issue by “ensuring” that insurance companies offer comprehensive medical care to persons with mental health diagnosis equal to the of patients with physical medication conditions.
There is so much than can be said in the area of mental health. I won’t bore you to tears dear Reader with my rant inspired by an already rough work week, but I cannot mention mental and behavioral illness without speaking of its twin.
Because of the barriers to access many persons, both diagnosed and undiagnosed, self medicate via illicit drug use. We all know the havoc that drugs wreck on an individual, family unit, and community. This alone is reason enough to continue to review and revamp the way in which care is provided.
Lastly, the stigma associated with mental health diagnosis can be so very painful. We’ve all seen and probably have participated in the stereotypes and misrepresentation of mental illness. I personally have worked with persons who were diagnosed with a medical condition and were fortunate enough to have a supportive group of relatives and friends rally to provide encouragement and support to help uplift the patient despite the sometimes terminal diagnosis. Conversely, I’ve also witnessed a person be diagnosed with a mental illness only to be shunned by family and friends when a bit of support could have greatly improved his quality of life. Of course there are sets of circumstances that lead to the effect, but not in all cases. It’s simply our on ignorance and fear that often leads to the effect.
Mental and behavioral illness has long been one of the most neglected areas of health. It gives us no dignity to avoid the sick especially when the failure to acknowledge and treat precede larger, devastating issues like crime, poverty, homelessness, addiction, and fractured communities.
Dang that was deep. Lol. Thank you Reader for listening. Personally, it’s been a rough week to be in the health care profession, but nothing a few strokes of the keyboard and several glasses of Asti can’t soothe. Next up: Hump Day!
For my information on mental and behavioral health, health care reform, and where to find help for mental illnesses, click here.