Thursday, May 31, 2012

Mental Health or Mental Illness?

Yesterday morning in Seattle a man shot and killed several people in two different locations. When he was found, several hours later, walking down the street and confronted by police, he then shot himself. According to ABC news, his brother was interviewed after the incident and said it was "no surprise" to his family and friends. Apparently the shooter was struggling with mental-health issues.

The reason I'm writing about this today is because I live in Seattle and yesterday was terrifying. No one knew where, or who this man was. They didn't know his motivation. They didn't know if there was more than one person involved. This was a completely random incident.

The question for me is if so many people were aware of this man struggling with mental health, what were the reasons behind him not getting the medical help he needed?

As a country we tend to brush off mental health issues. I don't know if it's because of shame, or societal expectations.  I don't know if it has gotten worse over the years, or if we just hear about it more now thanks to the media. What I do know is there are entirely too many people with mental illness who are not being treated.

The National Collation for the Homeless published a study showing mental illness in the top three causes for homelessness. I don't believe this particular shooter in Seattle was homeless. However, according to another story from Miami this week about a naked cannibal eating a man's face, that man was homeless and drug addicted which may mean he also was dealing with some mental illness. My point is, mental illness happens in every category of people, and not every category of people has the coverage to be treated for it.

Homeless people have little access to health care. Part time employees have little access to health care. Full time contractors, small business workers, some retail employees, all have little access to health care.  That's a problem.

Here's a bigger problem, most health insurance policies don't cover very well for mental health. Premium policies may have catastrophic coverage up to a million dollars if a person finds him or herself in a terrible accident. However, in the same policy they may only  cover (with a high co-pay) a few sessions of therapy for the mentally ill. Considering the cost of antipsychotic drugs, the policy's coverage might be lacking there as well.

My frustration is when a mentally ill person who has not been adequately treated, causes the catastrophic coverage to kick in for someone else.  Wouldn't it make more sense to not cut corners on mental health coverage and potentially avoid a catastrophic incident? Mental health is not separate from physical health and it should not be treated separately.

1 comment:

  1. Mental health describes a level of psychological well-being, or an absence of a mental disorder. Mental health disorders affect an estimated 22% of American adults each year.
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