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Five Facts About America’s Broken Mental Health-Care System

mental health

Did you know the average age of onset for mental illnesses is 14? This is not when individuals are diagnosed, but looking back, this is the average age when many begin struggling. And three-fourths of people with mental illness have it by the age of 24. Therefore, people with mental illness ‘hit the wall’ of life much earlier than the rest of us.

The National Comorbidity Survey (NCS) states that 48% – almost half of the world’s population – will have a direct experience with mental illness themselves over the course of their lifetime. Patients with severe mental illness live 13-32 years less than average. Bipolar disorder shortens the average lifespan by 9 years and schizophrenia by 12-15years. Did you know: Patients with heart disease are twice as likely to die if they have depression. Research even suggested depression may be as great a risk factor for heart disease as smoking. The facts are, left untreated, mental illness is a physical, bodily dysfunction that can kill you (hurt others), disable you, and may shorten your lifespan if left untreated.

Here are five facts you need to know about the current state of mental health care in America:

  1. The US spends only 5 percent of total health care expenses on mental health: $225 Billion, and it is not enough.

Stigma remains a major problem in providing adequate mental health care treatment and the stigma is reflected in the financials of health care. According to The World Health Organizations Mental Health Atlas studying 171 countries, “good intentions are not being met with investment.”

  1. Restrictive Standards and Unreasonable Criteria Keep Health Insurers from covering Treatment and Therapy Expenses.

That’s right; if you want to seek therapy it is very difficult for our insurance carriers to cover it. You will be out of pocket up to $300 for an initial screening and up to $250 per 45-minute session.

  1. 90 million Americans live in Federally Recognized Shortage regions for mental health care professionals – and the pay is not good if you feel called to help.

With the cost of gas soaring, more than 1 and 3 Americas are forced to travel long distances to see someone for help. We must do more. We live in the age of technology. Mental health professionals can offer in-home care via zoom-like tools. When there is a crisis we should be able to access the best of the best coping methods and intervention strategies.

  1. The national average wait time for mental health services is 48 days.

The greatest act of courage when one faces mental pain is to ask for help. When someone in mental pain finally does ask for help and learns there is a one to two-month wait to see a counselor for help, it is extremely disheartening and discouraging.

  1. Children are placed on a waitlist for up to one year to see a child psychiatrist and other mental health professionals – especially for the economically disadvantaged.

There is a mental health crisis of dramatic proportions unfolding with our children and grandchildren. Social media is toxic. Addictive gaming may cause depression. Isolation is the worst punishment our youth are experiencing. Parents are not mental health experts, and some are told we must wait up to a year to see one.

No one is unaffected by mental illness. We must build awareness of the problem and remove the stigma. To be sure, we must offer better patient care to those struggling with mental and emotional pain because more Americans die because of mental illness than from war, cancer, HIV, malaria, and homicide combined.

What can help fill the immediate gap and offer hope? Our churches. Our ministers provide 138-million hours of mental health services per year; services provided at little to no cost to those who seek them. Let’s be part of the healing equation.