How much of a problem is mental illness in America?
• 57.8 million Americans are living with mental illnesses (including addictions) in 2019. That’s over 17% of the population.
• In 2015, 22% of children in the US suffered from mental illnesses. That’s more than the number of kids with cancer, diabetes and AIDS combined.
• Close to half of people in the US with mental illnesses are not being treated. This is due to lack of medical insurance, stigmas, lack of access to care providers in rural areas and an increasing number of mental health providers who don’t accept Medicaid or insurance.
One doesn’t have to look far to see the effects of untreated mental illness. In every city, homelessness is a perpetual, tragic problem. We hear about suicides every day, with the fastest growing segment of suicides being by children.
What are our nation’s political leaders doing about this? In my opinion, not a damned thing.
After every mass shooting (by the end of September, there had been over 300 mass shootings so far in 2019, more than one each day) politicians love to wheel out the “mental illness blame game” by calling for Medicaid for all and gun reform which would restrict the mentally ill from buying guns.
Their solutions are laughable. First of all, only 1% of mass shootings are carried out by people with mental illness. Only 3-5% of violent crimes are committed by the mentally ill. In fact, we are much more likely to be the victims of violent crime than be the perpetrators.
After the horrific shooting in El Paso in August, President Trump announced his proposal to monitor those who had been diagnosed with illnesses such as bipolar and schizophrenia via breakthrough technology such as Apple watches and FitBits. Um…seriously??
Here’s the deal friends: We need to stop scapegoating mental illness every time someone commits mass murder. It’s not only misguided, it sets us back even more by furthering the stigmas we already fight.
If you take my right to buy a gun away, because I have bipolar, you violate my civil rights. I am no more likely to murder than someone without a mental illness. Facts, people.
Patients with mental health issues are as diverse as those without. Stripping away rights from people with conditions ranging from depression to ADHD to bipolar disorder to anxiety to substance abuse is tantamount to outright discrimination.
Take away my right to bear arms and then what comes next? My right to drive a car? Or have a child? Or vote? Will I be forced into an institution? It’s a slippery slope.
One former politician who is on the right track is Patrick Kennedy whose organization Dont deny me.org is a helpful resource in getting treatment for those with medical insurance.
Mental Health America is a good guide to getting help, finding support and being screened.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness is an organization dedicated to education, awareness and legislative reform. They also have support groups across the country.
How can you get care if you don’t qualify for Medicare but you don’t have insurance? This article has several ideas on what you can do. There isn’t a magic solution here I’m afraid. But it’s better than nothing.
And finally, if you’re in a crisis there are several hotlines open 24/7 where you can at least talk to a trained counselor. The Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800-273-8255. Another is the Text Crisis Line. You can get help via text by sending the message “hello” to this number 741741.
I’m not a trained mental health professional but, I am a decent listener. I’m here for you, if you need to talk, text, chat…just use my Contact Me page and I’ll get back to you soon! Hugs, ❤️🙏👩💻