Yesterday, Seth Rogen was on Capitol Hill discussing the need for Alzheimer's disease awareness and funding. From the moment he began his testimony, he received media coverage from all of the top-tier outlets. While Seth is a great spokesperson for this horrible disease, it is unfortunate mental health issues like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia get very little attention in the media. Ask yourself, what has been in the news as of late? The Winter Olympics, strife and turmoil around the world, political criticism of one party or the other and the long, frigid, unrelenting winter blanketing much of the United States. What is not in the news? Mental health. Yet again.
Thankfully, there has been no reason for the media to pick up the gauntlet and add to the stigma, but that does not mean we should stop raising awareness of those suffering, often in silence, from mental health problems. It is important to realize the issues surrounding serious mental illness and related mental health issues. These issues need to be in the forefront and not buried under the snow and ice. It looks like the wave of political promises and initiatives have died down -- for now.
While the media is quiet, it doesn't deter from the fact we still need programs, outpatient and in patient care, psychiatric case management and related supportive/supervisory services. The statistics should speak for themselves. The number of U.S. psychiatrists is decreasing at a steady rate. In fact, a recent Wall Street Journal article stated that the field in 2012 had only grown about one percent. We need to attract more highly trained mental health professionals and offer incentives for individuals interested in mental health care to follow the path to becoming psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric social workers, nurses and related supportive professionals. This is the only way to spur innovation to help control mental health issues and progress in cutting-edge treatment.
We also need to create services that are affordable. America is still unclear on the details of how mental health services are covered under the Affordable Care Act. The confusion and high costs are prohibiting people from seeking treatment and taking action. Currently, about 40 percent of mental health services are paid for out-of-pocket according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. That still leaves millions of people without proper care. The hope is that with the current parity measures, it will be mandatory for insurance companies to cover the cost of mental health treatment and really help those in need.
We are not working hard enough to address the stigma, the legislation and the funding for mental health services. Once again, the silence is deafening. I sound like a broken record (for those who remember records); the need for change continues to stare us in the face. We stare back and nothing changes. What will it take yet again? Why wait?
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