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Mental Illness and the Struggle for Services

  • Published: 2011-03-21 (Revised/Updated 2013-08-21) : Author: Thomas C. Weiss
  • Synopsis: People with mental health disabilities often find themselves with no source of income home transportation and no way to get to the services they need.

Main Document

"I have personally witnessed people with forms of mental health disabilities on the streets, begging and picking cigarette butts out of the gutter with no apparent awareness of where they really were."

People with mental health disabilities many times find themselves with no source of income, no home, no transportation, and no way to get to the services they need.

The disabilities they experience range from depression to schizophrenia, making the challenges they face very diverse and problematic. The term, 'common depression,' has no realistic meaning. There is no generic set of rules that can be applied to people with mental health disabilities where expectation of their abilities is concerned. People are all unique individuals with equally unique needs.

The services and organizations that are in place for people with mental health disabilities are often times located in buildings, not out in the community looking for people. Yet the prevalence of mental health disabilities in the communities of America is vast. While hospitals are located in cities and communities, they often require transportation to get to, making them inaccessible to people.

Stigma is working against the health care of people in America every single day.

Each year in this nation, a mere twenty-percent of children and teenagers who have a form of mental health disability are identified and receive the mental health services they need. Nearly half of students who have a mental health disability and are over the age of fourteen drop out of high school entirely, a rate that is the highest of any disability group in America.

Suicide is still a serious public health concern; it is the third leading cause of death among young people between the ages of ten and twenty-four years of age. More people in this age group die from suicide than heart disease, AIDS, cancer, strokes, pneumonia, birth defects, the flu, or chronic lung disease COMBINED. Yet ninety-percent of these young people who have died from suicide had a form of diagnosable and treatable mental health disability.

Around seventy-percent of young people who are involved in either state or local juvenile justice systems across America experience a form of mental health disability that is treatable. Nearly twenty-percent of them have symptoms that are so severe their ability to function in society has been significantly impaired, yet they remain untreated or unassisted in any way.

Americans as a whole who experience forms of untreated mental health disabilities use more general types of health services than people who look for mental health services when they need them. What this means is an increase in the overall health care costs for both the person and the health care system. In fact - the economy in this nation loses around one-hundred and thirteen Billion dollars every single year because of untreated or mistreated forms of mental health disabilities. Still - the current system of stigma and ignoring the facts continues.

Anxiety disorders are the most common forms of mental disabilities in America with greater than nineteen million people experiencing disabilities such as:

Somehow, the pervasive demeanor remains that these disabilities are the person's fault. Mental health disabilities are physical conditions that are Not The Fault of the person who has them. Vital parts of the mental health care system are missing entirely in many instances.

Outreach personnel are needed in order to seek out people with mental health disabilities who are living on the streets.

I have personally witnessed people with forms of mental health disabilities on the streets, begging and picking cigarette butts out of the gutter with no apparent awareness of where they really were. Who is expecting them to reach for services? Yet when assisted, I have also witnessed a young man become a productive member of society after living in such a manner. He received the treatment and services he needed and now lives in an apartment, has a job, as well as someone to love.

Vans are needed for outreach personnel to use. You cannot expect outreach personnel who have successfully contacted and assisted a person with a mental health disability to get on a city bus with them. Transportation is very much a needed service.

Stations where anyone at all; whether they experience a severe form of mental health disability or not, can go to for assistance are also needed.It is not enough to have a telephone number that people can call. It is not enough to expect people with forms of mental health disabilities to have the ability to pick up a phone when they are many times afraid or unable to. You cannot expect a person with a form of mental health disability to pick up a phone and reach for an unknown person on the other end of a telephone at times. There must be a face the person can speak with; a patient, caring one.

Doctors, pharmacies, and health care workers in general - to include counselors, are all located in places that must be visited by a person who already has a form of mental health disability. Transportation to and from these places must be provided for people who have forms of mental health disabilities as they are getting themselves re-established. Again - people with mental health disorders many times are incapable of reaching for services they need due to the disabilities they experience. For those of you who read this and think, 'Egads! The costs...,' please bear in mind the costs to the economy if people Do Not Receive The Treatment They Need.

Doctors, pharmacies, counselors, and health care workers who treat and interact with people who experience forms of mental health disabilities have been working under the assumption that they can sit in their buildings and wait for people to come to them. They are WRONG. People who experience forms of mental health disabilities have enough on their plates to deal with. Reaching for services is often the farthest thing from their minds; I know. The young man mentioned in this article who was begging on the streets and picking cigarette butts out of the gutter was me at age twenty.

When I came home from Fort Sill, Oklahoma after experiencing a heat stroke that left me with epilepsy, I also found myself with PTSD from near-death experiences related to status epilepticus. It was demoralizing enough that I found myself contemplating suicide, wandering around the streets of Seattle and yes - I did fall into that group of young people below the age of twenty-four. At age forty-seven, I now find myself with a Masters, Bachelors, and two Associate degrees. I live in a condominium on the fourth floor. I spent twenty-four years as a Nursing Assistant, assisting fellow People with Disabilities, paid or not. I am married, and very much in love. Please bear in mind that a person with a mental health disability is indeed a human being, very much worth society's time.

Similar Topics

1 : Link Between Excessive Screen Time and Teen Suicide Risk : Florida State University.
2 : Facial Recognition Findings May Help Develop Conduct Disorder Treatments : University of Bath.
3 : Social Isolation and Loneliness Greater Threat to Public Health Than Obesity : American Psychological Association.
4 : Control Your Emotions by Talking to Yourself in the 3rd Person : Michigan State University.
5 : New Diagnostic Model For Psychiatric Disorders Proposed : University of Notre Dame.
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