“Some think depression is simply being sad, that OCD is being uptight. They think the soul is sick, not the body. It is, they believe, something that you have some choice over.” – David Levithan
The mental health system in America is in crisis. Although most healthcare policies include mental health coverage, after Obamacare passed, the system to deliver services imploded. States have no criteria to judge who urgently needs help, and too few providers. Since states have also passed restrictive drug laws, the mentally ill can only get medications from a specialist. The average age of a psychiatrist is roughly 50 years old and nobody is stepping up to fill the void when they close their doors. Patients are left alone in a world not made for them to exist in without essential medications. Some go off the edge and are committed to overcrowded institutions; and some are not that lucky.
The growing national concern about mental healthcare exposes mental illness as a leading cause of disability in the U.S. It is the most under-treated health impairment in the nation. The suicide rate has increased three-fold in the last two decades due to lack of access to mental health treatment. The cultural and social stigma surrounding mental illness has left many patients to suffer silently with no one to turn to for help.
When they come out of the closet, they discover psychiatrists are not taking new patients; even those are hundreds of miles away from their homes. “If and when” they do receive treatment, it is usually too little too late. Others just give up, and another productive life is wasted.
Mental health is physical health. The brain is a part of the body. When it is ill, it must be treated. If a person has good mental health, they are able to think clearly and interface with others in society. This allows them to live their lives the way they wish. But if they are prevented from doing this due to a reaction from a crisis or an event in their lives, this affects their mental health. When they can’t cope with problems or solve them, they feel as bad or worse than any other illness they have ever had.
“A lot of people are living with mental illness. Either you love one or are one.”
– Mark Ruffalo
Mental illness ranges from moderate to severe. A serious mental illness is a behavioral, emotional or other condition that alters the state of a mind into functional impairment. When these conditions substantially limit a person’s daily life activities, they become totally disabled. Those living without professional help and medication get worse and are institutionalized.
Those with the most severe cases are hospitalized for lengthy periods, and sometimes for an entire life. The tragedy is many of them could be living productive lives if they had received treatment when they first needed help.
The demand for mental healthcare in the U.S. is rapidly rising along with the aging population. The American Medical Association estimates 1 in 5 people have serious mental health issues that must be treated immediately. The impact on their lives and society without treatment affects the patient’s income, quality of life, relationships and productivity. The American Psychiatric Institute confirmed their death rate is higher than any disease in America. The most common disorders left untreated include depression, anxiety and cognitive impairment.
“When a person’s struggle becomes their identity, too many just give up.”
– Dr. Janis Diets
While the U.S. has a shortage of doctors, the paucity of mental health professionals is greater than any other field. According to the Health Services Administration over 89 million Americans reside in federally designated Mental Health Shortage Areas. The National Council for Mental Health says the demand for mental health services continues to increase, but we are losing providers that are not being replaced. There was a shortage before Obamacare passed. Now many are retiring early and this vacuum is epidemic. Over half of those seeking help for themselves or a loved one are turned away; even with the best insurance coverage. Many providers are no longer taking insurance and others “cherry pick” their patients. This use to be the exception: now if has become the new norm.
Everyone in our nation is aware there always was and always will be drug trafficking as long as we have unprotected boarders. A study by the International Institute of Medicine estimates about 95 percent of street drugs come across the border or are made illegally. As states pass one-size-fits-all drug laws, they restrict dispensing of anxiety and depression drugs to those who need them most. Now the mentally ill can no longer have prescriptions written by their PCP for medications they once got from them, when they were denied treatment from a psychiatrist. They live torturous lives without their medications, and suffer in silence.
“Nothing’s more isolating than a mental illness.”
National studies point to government and insurers for making the already over-taxed system worse with the passage of Obamacare. To meet federal demands that include routine procedures in over-inclusive generic insurance plans, mental healthcare was short changed. Due to huge deductibles, half of those who need help must choose between physical and mental health treatment. Almost half of those who can’t find doctors taking new patients, or can’t pay cash for life saving help, lose their most productive years isolated from the world. They anguish through life suffering in silence.
“Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength.” – Demi Lovato
Although Obamacare required insurers to provide mental healthcare coverage, the cost of these plans escalated due to the federal demands placed on insurers. One of the ludicrous claims made by its proponents was insurance premiums would go down. Instead, premiums ballooned to pay for additional services. This decreased access to mental healthcare by mandating new requirements for insurers, raising taxes, and forcing mentally ill patients into cookie cutter plans. This reduced options for the mentally ill, and raised the costs and co-pays exponentially. Today, even many of those with good coverage that experience a major crisis can no longer get life-saving treatments.
Singer Lady Gaga recently said, “Those who don’t feel your pain can’t tell you it will just go away.” Obama’s healthcare mandates on insurance companies violated our free markets and backfired. Now the mentally ill are left on the outside looking in. Mental illness in America has always been considered a subordinate medical ailment. Any good intentions Obama’s Congress had when they signed Obamacare into law constituted a death certificate for many mentally ill. Our over-loaded mental healthcare network short-circuited. Now there are even fewer providers who will treat them.
People from all over the world come to America to take advantage of our healthcare. They flock to our hospitals for life-saving treatments they can only get here. Yet we are denying services to many of our citizens afflicted with moderate and severe mental illness. Obamacare mortally wounded our once coveted healthcare system. If “Medicare for all” becomes law, it will be the fatal and final blow to totally dismantle our mental healthcare system. It will leave thousands more Americans living in an intimidating world of anxiety and depression that could have been helped with proper treatment.
Mental illness is physical illness and can affect anyone. Nobody is immune to it. It’s time to speak up for those that suffer in silence.
"If you use your platform and your voice to raise awareness and enforce change, I feel deeply there is nothing more respectable one can ever do.” – Lady Gaga
William Haupt III
The Center Square