The U.S. lacks mental health care

JessicaJaspersonAccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the latest statistics from 2010 show 38,364 suicides were reported in the U.S.

National Suicide Prevention week is important to recognize along with National Suicide Prevention day on Sept. 10. However, a week of awareness and prevention only silences the stigma for a short time.

Although the week of prevention is over, people should be aware of the heartbreaking statistics and the reality of suicide not disappearing.

Not only are the statistics of committed suicides alarming in the U.S., but the amount of thoughts of suicide is frightening.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration results from its 2011 national survey on mental health show 8.5 million adults 18 years or older had thoughts of suicide in 2011. Sadly, this number doesn’t even account for the number of people below the ages of 18.

In this country, it’s easy to feel left behind and forgotten about when it comes to the inadequate mental health care system, which accounts for not only suicides but many other untreated mental illnesses.

Factors that add up to this inadequacy include high costs for mental health care and there not being enough counselors available when compared to medical doctors.

The SAMHSA survey reported for 2011 that over 65 percent of people with a mental illness who did not pursue treatment was due to money-related issues such as “Could Not Afford Cost,” “Health Insurance Did Not Cover Enough Insurance” and “Health Insurance Did Not Cover Any Treatment.”

Mental health care is often unattainable because of the lack of professionals who are trained to help.

Only 156,000 mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists made up the U.S. workforce according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics in 2010.

Rather than treat those with mental illness face-to-face with time and compassion, handing out prescription drugs seems easiest. The CDC reported nearly half of Americans use one prescription drug a month, with antidepressants being one of the three top therapeutic drugs prescribed.

An example of a “professional’s” prescription abuse comes from a personal experience. A member of my family struggles with depression and anxiety, so she decided to visit a psychiatrist to receive help. After one 20-minute session the “professional” sent her upstairs where she was prescribed a refillable antidepressant and an antianxiety medication.

I’m not saying prescription drugs do not and will not help those with mental illness. I’ve had friends and family members who take prescription drugs that ultimately help them in the long run.

However, a combination of long-term therapy and prescription drugs would be better than a short consultation and trip to the pharmacist.

The U.S. needs to reform its mental health care system by decreasing the costs and expanding services of mental health counselors.

I think the stigma of mental health and mental health care is better today than years ago, but there is more work to be done.

If you have a mental illness, please do not feel intimidated or frightened to speak to someone about the problem and how you are feeling.

The Hendrix Clinic and Counseling Center offers counseling services right on campus.

Reach out to a friend, family member, roommate, coworker or anyone you feel comfortable with if you have thoughts about suicide or need to talk about a mental illness.

FirstLink is a nonprofit human services agency that provides a 24 -hour suicide lifeline. If you need to talk to someone anonymous about your situation call (800) 273-8255 (TALK).

After experiencing one of my friends take his own life, I am telling you the pain you leave behind is nowhere near the pain you’re feeling right now.

Over two years has passed, and I still think of him every day as the light shines down on the plants he left behind; a living memory of a dear man that is no longer with us.

BY JESSICA JASPERSON
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