Friday, March 2, 2018

Mental Health's Moment

It's unfortunate that it took the most recent spate of gun violence to shine a light on our failing mental health system. But, now that we’ve reached this watershed moment, the way to make the most of an awful situation is by taking this momentum and working towards real change. It would be a failure to allow mental health or mental illness to suffice as red herrings or distractions in the hands of talking heads. Instead, we should tackle our failed care for mental health with the same vigor and attention we are giving to battling gun violence.

Reagan era policies that both defunded and delegitmized mental health institutions are antiquated and are the first things that have got to go. The status quo means that as many as two-thirds of those with severe mental illness never receive treatment.

Second, we’ve got to dismiss the concept of mental health institutions currently being gladhanded about as some kind of panacea for all our ills. Certainly, there is great value in long-term care for those individuals who suffer from certain disorders and conditions. And, in a well-regulated, well-planned, and well-funded system, many of those individuals would receive care that might even allow them to resume normal living normal lives.

But, let’s be clear: mental health isn’t just for the violent and it neither begins nor ends at the doorstep of an institution. We need to proactively invest again in our community mental health centers, in mental health outreach and in youth mental health resources. Policies that due more to connect the mentally ill with stable housing, therapy and medication are also integral to chiseling away at the problem of homelessness.

Yet, for whom access to is needed the most, mental healthcare costs are on the rise.

This is the moment to give mental health its due, ensure access is fair, widespread and equal, and erase the stigmas that stop people from seeking out the resources they need to get better.

Mental Health's Moment