The United States is failing to provide even basic mental health
care. Seriously, we're failing. We got a "D" on the National Alliance on Mental Health
Grading the States report, a national report on the public
mental health care system that features individual grades for each
state and an overall assessment for the country. The 2009 report is
the most recent report, and it was the second time NAMI provided
grades for provision of mental health services. The first was in
2006, and we got a "D" that time, too.
The grades are based on 65 specific criteria in four categories:
health promotion and management, financing and core
treatment/recovery services, consumer and family empowerment, and
community integration and social inclusion. Overall, 6 states
earned a "B," 18 states earned a "C," 21 states received a "D," and
6 states received an "F."
Mental Health Care Suffers from too Little Funding, Too
Discussions about mental health care resurfaced-in earnest this
time-following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in
December 2012. Although that tragedy sparked a debate about gun
control, it also brought into light
gaps in the country's mental health care services and mental health
Too often, mental health care budgets are overrun by in-patient
hospital care for the most extreme mental health patients. But we
could be helping people long before they ever get to that stage.
And experts say that public stigma often leads to many people
not seeking treatment before things get really bad.
Shame, embarrassment, and fear often prevent people them from
seeking professional help for mental illness. Some people also
offer suffer from a condition called
anosognosia (or lack of insight), meaning they are unable to
understand that they have a mental health disorder.
There's a lot we don't know about mental illness.
But here's what we do know.
- One in four adults experiences a mental health disorder in a
- One in 17 adults lives with a serious mental illness, such as
schizophrenia, major depressive disorder, or bipolar
- One in 10 children live with a serious mental or emotional
- One-half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age
14 and three-quarters by age 24
- Fewer than one-third of adults and one-half of children with a
diagnosable mental disorder receive mental health services in a
- 24 percent of state prisoners and 21 percent of local jail
prisoners have a recent history of a mental health disorder, and 70
percent of youth in juvenile justice systems have a least one
- More than 50 percent of students with a mental disorder age 14
and older drop out of high school-which is the highest dropout rate
of any disability group
Wraparound Program Seeks to Treat Children
Before they Become Headlines
We deserve better. And in some places, we do better. A program
in Milwaukee, WI, Wraparound
Milwaukee, has won awards for its comprehensive, cost-effective
care for children with mental health needs. The program provides
coordinated services for children with mental health disorders who
have been placed in foster care or caught up in the juvenile
justice system. But the program doesn't just keep tabs on children
in the "system." Wraparound Milwaukee also provides preventive
services to several hundred children not tracked through the court
system-with the goal of keeping them out of it.
While Wraparound has won awards and was featured in a PBS
documentary, Wisconsin as a state received a "C" from NAMI on its
2009 report-a drop from a "B" grade in 2006. Such parity from
within a single state suggests that there is much more work to be
done to improve provision of mental health care services.
Excellence in Mental Health Act will Strengthen
Recognizing the need to strengthen our mental health care
system, a bipartisan group of senators in February introduced the
in Mental Health Act. The Act establishes standards for
Federally Qualified Community Behavioral Health Centers that will
require them to provide mental health services that span from
24-hour crisis care to integrated physical, mental, and substance
abuse treatments. The Act also seeks to expand access to mental
health services by supporting renovation of existing centers and
construction of new ones.
The point here is not that we're struggling to provide adequate
mental health care services; the point is that we need to
do something about it. No one should suffer in silence
with a mental illness. No voice is too small to speak up. And we
all deserve to be heard.