Nowhere to Turn
More than half a million Americans with serious mental illness are falling through the cracks of a system in tatters says a USA Today special report. The homeless that are mentally ill find little help or empathy from those around them and usually end up in emergency departments or jails. The fortunate ones have family members who can take them in, the unfortunate ones end up in a mortuary.
Tim Murphy, R-PA; (and also a child psychologist) leading an effort to remodel the mental health system says, “We have replaced the hospital bed with the jail cell, the homeless shelter with the coffin. How is that compassionate?”
In an effort to conserve funds states have reduced community mental health services designed to keep people healthy, and also the hospital care required to heal them following a crisis. Due to pressure from insurance companies, states have been reducing the number of hospital beds for decades. Efforts have been focused on more care outside institutions. Robert Glover, executive director of the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors said tight budgets during the recession forced some of the most devastating cuts in recent memory. States cut $5 billion in mental health services from 2009 to 2012. In the same period, the country eliminated at least 4,500 public psychiatric hospital beds, nearly 10 percent of the total supply.
The sad consequence is that very often; those with mental illness have nowhere to turn. The 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health alarmingly reported that 40 percent of adults with ‘severe’ mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, received no treatment the previous year and among adults with any mental illness 60 percent were untreated.
Karen Kelley, 55 of Burlington, VT and mother of three adult children has battled depression for 15 years. Two years ago the disease nearly won, “I was in a very dark place and could not see the way out. I just felt like I was letting everybody down around me and I was never going to get better. It’s like being in a tunnel that’s encased in with black and you can’t see the way you came in or the way out, and you’re all alone.” Kelley felt the world would be a better place without her. Her psychiatrist tried to have Kelley admitted to a hospital but was told there were no available psychiatric beds. Not in the city. Not in the entire state.
When tropical storm Irene barreled through New England it flooded Vermont’s only psychiatric hospital with eight feet of water. Patients were transferred to facilities across the state, the hospital closed and Vermont has yet to open a new psychiatric hospital.
Kelley attempted suicide several times. Her husband and daughter, afraid she would hurt herself again, took turns staying with her most of the time. Kelley says she didn’t really want to die but there was only one way to get into a hospital. She swallowed an entire bottle of pills, walked into the next room and told her husband, “Now they will have to admit me,” Patients and their advocates say the country’s mental health system has been drowning for a long time, not from floodwaters but from neglect.
Nothing makes a person pay more attention to the consequences of a specific disease than being affected by it or realizing its effect on others. Many celebrities who have the eyes and ears of the public on them have started foundations to help other people including:
- The Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation to fund research into spinal cord injuries. So far, $80 million has been raised
- The Michael J. Fox foundation to fund research into Parkinson’s disease. Since 2000, $450 million has been raised
- Supermodel Christy Turlington started Every Mother Counts following the birth of her first child when she suffered a health complication
- The Elton John AIDS foundation has raised $300 million for AIDS research
- The Boomer Esiason foundation was formed when the former NFL quarterback discovered his son had cystic fibrosis. $100 million has been raised
- Paul Simon started the Children’s Health Fund to serve underserved children and bought the first mobile doctor’s office which visits children who live in shelters and provides medical services to them
Sovereign Health offers treatment for those suffering from depression and other mental health disorders. We understand that no one disease is the same, just like an individual, they must be evaluated and treated accordingly. For information call 866-524-5504
Written by Sovereign Health Group writer Veronica McNamara