There has been a lot of talk since the school shootings in Connecticut about Mental Health and the need to do something. This sounds good and nearly everyone thinks its a good idea. However, we’ve yet to hear what it is we should do that will make us more safe. Yet everyone is sure it is the answer and easier than the gun discussion.
What does the hot topic of “Mental Health” mean? Mental Health is actually a generic term for how we are functioning at any given time. Most of us function better during times of low stress than under severe stress. Individuals may have a genetic predisposition to handle stressful or traumatic situations either better or worse than others. Additionally, when a person’s functioning under stress is affected, they tend not to realize it. Nearly everyone can think of a time when they were dealing with a stressful situation and thought no one knew, only to be told by someone later that they could tell much about the situation from observation.
Mental Illness can strike the rich, poor, middle class, males, females and all ethnicities. Sometimes it is because of genetics, sometimes a mixture of genetics and environmental factors and in others it is solely environmental (i.e. war). It can happen over time or very quickly. So how do we decide who will be the one to shoot a school full of innocent children? What would it entail to be able to ensure everyone who might be potentially dangerous is assessed and treated?
Parents, family members and friends of those whom have deteriorating Mental Health may or may not think it is serious or know what to do. Think of the many suicides where no one knew anything was wrong. When they are concerned and try to get them the help they need they often run into many barriers.
Mental Heath services today are offered as a profit driven business with little standards or oversight of the services offered. Citizens of our state take their loved one for “help” to one of these businesses hoping that the professional there will have the expertise in needed and quality best practice care will be provided.
Nearly everyone has waited to be seen in an emergency room and know how long you often have to wait to receive care. There is no guarantee that emergency room will have an expert on mental status and will be familiar with the research on the presenting symptomatology and the most effective medications. Taking your loved one whose mental status has deteriorated to be evaluated at that emergency room yourself or with a police escort causes you to risk losing their trust, increased anger and even further isolation. After having waited several hours to see a doctor the person is likely to present better by the time they see the doctor. Now, they can no longer be deemed “at risk to themselves or others” and are released with you to go home.
Even if you manage to maneuver all the aforementioned pitfalls and secure treatment, most insurances do not cover mental health treatment or have a pre-existing clause making the services not eligible to be covered. Far more won’t even have insurance. Prescriptions can be costly and the average person does not have the funds to cover the expense .
To deal with this issue, we must deal with healthcare, struggle with individual rights vs society’s safety, ensure quality best practice approaches and quality professionals in all parts of the state and make a financial commitment to build a quality mental health system. Do we have the will? Or will it be a smoke screen for the gun issue?
By: MattersofState, guest commentary #ncblondes
Note from Editor: I do not endorse anonymous blogs, tweets, posts or parodies that villainize individuals or attack. I am allowing MattersofState to submit articles on issues anonymously because this individual is not in a position to use their name in order to maintain job security.