Francesca Fiorentini: When it comes to mental health, the United States has a long way to go.
Text: Francesca Fiorentini @franifio
Francesca Fiorentini: From caring for those with mental illness to changing public perception, we often get it so wrong. Here are four myths about mental health in the US.
Myth #1: Mental Illness Is Rare
Francesca Fiorentini: Actually, 1 in 4 adults experiences mental illness every year. That includes everything from depression to eating disorders , OCD, and schizophrenia. Even celebs like Jon Hamm, Lena Dunham, and Lady Gaga have spoken out about the importance of addressing mental health issues of their own.
Demi Lovato: “Bipolar Depression really got my life off track. But today I’m proud to say I’m living proof that someone can live, love, and be well with Bipolar Disorder when they get the support, education, and treatment they need.”
Myth #2: If the Mentally Ill Just Wanted Help, They Could Get It
Francesca Fiorentini: Well, getting treatment in the US is not so easy. 90 million Americans live in places without easy access to mental health assistance. Between 2009 and 2012, states cut 5 billion dollars from mental health services. In 1950, there was one psychiatric bed for every 300 Americans. And in 2010, that number was one in 7100. How did it get so bad?
In the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan nationalized a trend that started in his home state of California, moving people out of hospital psychiatric wards. Federal mental health spending went down by 30%. Many were left without proper care, often becoming homeless or imprisoned. Today, up to 30% of homeless people have a serious mental illness. That’s five times the rate in the general population. And there are ten times as many mentally ill people behind bars as in state hospitals.
Myth #3: The Mentally Ill Are Violent
Francesca Fiorentini: When we do talk about mental health in the US, it’s often on the heels of tragedies – like murder.
News Anchor 1: “The copilot who crashed flight 9525 into the Alps, killing 149 people and himself, had a mental illness.”
News Anchor 2: “CBS news has learned that James Homes had seen at least three mental health professionals…”
News Anchor 3: “Lanza had ‘significant mental health issues.’”
Francesca Fiorentini: But only 3 to 5% of violent acts in the United States are committed by people with serious mental illness. In fact, people with mental illness are ten times more likely to be victims of violent crime than the rest of society. And, of the 38,000 people who commit suicide each year, it’s estimated that 90% have had a mental illness. And people with serious mental illness die up to 23 years sooner than other Americans.
Myth #4: Fixing the System Is Just Too Expensive
Francesca Fiorentini: Well, tax payers actually end up paying more for the consequences of mental illness than they would for preventative treatment. For every 2 to 3 thousand dollars spent on treating the mentally ill, 50,000 dollars is saved on incarceration costs.
So after all this, maybe it’s the system that’s truly insane.