In places like Indonesia, where the mentally ill still live in chains and there are fewer than 600 psychiatrists in a land of 240 million people, “investing in mental health” has a whole different meaning than it does here in the United States.
Of course things are better here. Our problems are more subtle and less critical. And while we have come a long way in our country in our perception, understanding, and treatment of mental illness, we have so much further to go. Stigmas revolving around these illnesses and disorders are still prevalent. Sufferers are still misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all. Treatments may involve the wrong therapies and/or the wrong medications. Even when the right treatment is known, as is the case with OCD, it is not always available, as there is frequently a shortage of properly trained therapists, especially in non-urban areas.
We can’t talk about “investing in mental health” without touching upon the financial state of health care in our country. According to this 2010 study conducted by Brandeis University, 32 state mental health agencies reported budget cuts in 2009; on average, the cuts tallied 4.9 percent of the budget. Programs affected the most include inpatient adult services, clinic adult services, inpatient children’s services, and clinic services for children.
It’s one thing to rattle off these facts and figures and another thing to experience a decline in health care personally. Our son Dan has been going to the same therapist every other week for over three years. Somehow Blue Cross and Blue Shield has now taken the mental health parity law and twisted it for their own benefit. Dan’s visits to this clinical psychologist, which in the past have cost us only a co-payment, will soon be cost prohibitive. He will either have to stop seeing this doctor, or go much less frequently. Thankfully Dan is doing well, but what about all of the people out there who are not? What about the people for whom it took months, or maybe years, to find the right therapist? Now they have no choice but to start from square one, with only a limited list of providers to choose from. How is this good for anyone except the insurance companies?
We have plenty of work to do individually, nationally, and world-wide as we strive to “invest in mental health.” Please get involved in this cause however you can, even if it is just being in tune to your own, and your loved ones, mental health. The payoff is potentially huge, and, no doubt, would benefit us all.