It’s Time to Make a Difference
During much of the past year, Americans have engaged in a dialogue about mental illness, sparked by the tragedies in Aurora, Colo. and Newtown, Conn. Most people living with mental illness are not violent, but when violence does occur, the spotlight falls on holes in the mental health care system.
This year, the spotlight has had special intensity, including proposals by the President of the United States, congressional hearings and interest among state and local elected officials. During Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) is Oct. 6-12, 2013, every community should pause to consider whether a true awakening has occurred, including greater investment in mental health care.
It’s time to make a difference.
Mental illness does not discriminate. It can strike anyone at any time. Fortunately recovery is possible. Treatment works, but only if a person can get it.
One in four American adults experience a mental health problem in any given year. One in five young people ages 13 to 18 also experience mental illness. In fact, one-half of all mental illness begins by the age of 14—three-quarters by age 24.
Unfortunately, there are long delays−sometimes decades−between the first appearance of symptoms and when people get help. Less than one-third of adults and less than one-half of children with a diagnosed illness receive treatment.
Local NAMI affiliates stand ready to help in their areas. For residents in the Los Angeles South Bay, NAMI South Bay offers resources, classes, support groups and helpful information, beginning with the information available on this site. For affiliates in other areas, the national organization keeps an updated and interactive page you can find by CLICKING HERE or clicking on NAMI’s Affiliates-by-State map:
Key issues that affect access to mental health care include expansion of state Medicaid coverage for uninsured persons, mental health insurance parity and state spending on direct services. Spending money can involve difficult choices, but when it comes to mental health care, lack of coverage or cuts too often results in simply shifting costs to hospital emergency rooms, schools, police, courts, jails and broken families
When it comes to mental health care, we need to focus on “sooner” rather than simply “later.” As part of this year’s dialogue on mental illness, the challenge has been made not to fix the mental health care system but to build it anew—with much greater emphasis on early screening, diagnosis and treatment. This includes the need for effective school-based and school-linked mental health services. It also includes family education and support who too often are overwhelmed as caregivers.
During MIAW, these are issues to talk about. Even more fundamentally, everyone should take care to know the nature of mental illness and the symptoms of different conditions such as major depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Information about specific diagnoses and treatment options is available at www.nami.org.
No one should have to confront mental illness alone. Know where to find help in case it’s ever needed. Most people start with their primary care doctor. Many start by confiding in a close family member of friend.
Don’t be afraid to speak up. The U.S. Surgeon General has reported that stigma is a major barrier to people seeking help when they need it. That’s why MIAW is so important. The more people know, the better they can help themselves or their loved ones to get the support they need.