Adrienne BoettingerTuesday,3 December 2013

The Snap:

A trip to the mall during the holidays will convince you that your fellow men are straight-up nutjobs. People will literally stab each other over holiday deals, get into fistfights over parking spots and spend egregious amounts of money on crap they know their loved ones will hate. Bizarrely, these people believe themselves to be perfectly sane. Of course, merely shopping during the holidays is not a sign of mental illness. So what can you do if you’re among the nearly 20% of Americans who suffers from a mental illness? Must you wait for Congress to actually do any of the things they promised to do to “fix” mental healthcare in response to the Sandy Hook massacre? And will eating fruitcake make you cray-cray?

The Download:

After centuries of study, people still treat individuals with mental illnesses as if they are at fault. As a society we don’t blame someone for having cancer but we blame the mentally ill for their afflictions, for being too weak to snap out of it. We may complain about government inaction but the root of the problem goes back to our own attitudes about the nature of mental illnesses.

I’ve had depression and anxiety disorder for a while and at first I tried to hide it. I thought if I could just get enough will power together, if I could just force myself to be “normal,” it would be easy breezy. I blamed myself and was too embarrassed to seek help. Thankfully, a friend helped me see that seeking help for depression was no more wrong than it would be for a cancer patient to get chemo. With therapy and medication, things in my life have gotten better. I’ve seen the alternative with loved ones who refuse to seek help and it seems like they’ve wasted so much precious time suffering unnecessarily.

What happens if you believe you’re showing signs of a mental illness? Securing mental healthcare can be daunting and the costs are staggering. States cut $4 billion from their mental healthcare budgets over the past few years. There’s a shortage of qualified mental health professionals. Sadly but unsurprisingly, Congress has failed to do anything other than hold hearings inspiring the false perception that all people with mental illnesses are violent and responsible for tragic mass shootings (in reality 3-5% of violent acts are attributed to people with serious mental illnesses).

There has been some good news in terms of making it easier to obtain mental health coverage thanks to the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act signed by President Bush, rules to enforce that act and provisions expanding mental health care under the Affordable Care Act signed by President Obama, and moves by many states to increase spending on mental health care. On a more personal and individual level, we can all make it easier for people to get the mental healthcare they need by not stigmatizing the illnesses and by supporting those in our families and communities who need it.

Take Action!

Hat Tips:

WebMDWashington PostCNNPoliticoNational Institute of Mental HealthMentalhealth.govNational Alliance on Mental Illness, Image Credit: Flickr

Subscribe to get updates delivered to your inbox