Consider these alarming statistics:
* By 2020, behavioral health disorders will surpass all physical diseases as a major cause of disability worldwide.
* Of the more than 6 million people served by state mental health authorities across the nation, only 21 percent are employed.
* More than half of adolescents in the United States who fail to complete high school have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder.
* Between 2009 and 2011 states cumulatively cut more than $1.8 billion from their budgets for services for children and adults living with mental illness.
* In 2009, there were an estimated 45.1 million adults aged 18 or older in the United States with any mental illness in the past year. This represents 19.9 percent of all adults in the U.S.
*Serious mental illnesses cost society $193.2 billion in lost earnings per year.
* The annual total estimated societal cost of substance abuse in the U.S. is $510 billion.
* In 2008, an estimated 9.8 million adults aged 18 and older in the U.S. has a serious mental illness.
With our economy still in the toilet, states and federal government threaten to cut even more dollars in mental health funding, which would result in less or no access to mental health treatment and services for countless Americans. Ultimately the cuts steal the one thing that keeps those of us struggling with chronic mood disorders alive: hope.
Yesterday a group of mental health advocacy organizations hosted a joint symposium titled “Mental Health Hope: Lost People, Lost Dollars, Lost Hope” at the Reserve Officers Association in Washington, D.C. to raise awareness about the imminent threat and impact of such budget cuts. Actress Glenn Close and her sister Jessie, former second lady Tipper Gore, and a handful of prominent doctors and directors of behavioral care centers addressed the symposium moderated by the award-winning journalist Cokie Roberts.
I very much wanted to be there to take notes myself — and to meet my best friends Glenn, Tipper, and Cokie for a cup of coffee — but ironically I couldn’t attend because I need to work so many hours at my day job in order to pay for my mental health care, most of which is not covered by my health insurance plan. Thus, this is an issue I feel very passionate about, and urge you to pay closer attention to yourselves.
“Too often policymakers only see the immediate savings of cutting budgets to mental health services,” said John M. Oldham, M.D., President of the American Psychiatric Association. “We want to emphasize that these programs are already providing significant savings within the health care system and in other sectors of society, by increasing employment and workplace productivity, and by decreasing homelessness, substance use, and overcrowding in emergency rooms.
Mark Covall, President and CEO of the National Association of Psychiatric Health Systems, added:
The work we have done to increase access and quality of care for those in need will be severely threatened without the resources to keep the programs going. We’re already struggling to deal with increased demand due to the down economy. If we see any further cutbacks, the result will be incredibly costly for the wider community.
Actress Glenn Close launched her anti-stigma campaign, Bring Change 2 Mind, to educate the public about mood disorders after watching her sister, Jessie, battle an undiagnosed bipolar disorder for years, and helping her nephew, Calen, who lives with schizoaffective disorder, get the care he needs.
“Access is critical,” Glenn wrote in an op-ed piece published yesterday on the website Politico.com, “because more of us are affected and in need of support than most people realize. Close to 60 million Americans live with a diagnosable mental illness, and one in four families has a relative living with mental illness”
For more information about the symposium, please visit: www.mentalhealthhope.com.