Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Editorial: Confronting Mental Illness in Topeka

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Editorial: Confronting Mental Illness in Topeka

Article excerpt

Considering how widespread mental illness is in the United States, why don't we dedicate more resources to education and treatment? According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 43.4 million American adults had a mental illness in 2015 -- just under 18 percent of the total population. This means it's a virtual certainty that you have a friend or family member who suffers from a mental illness. But stigma remains alarmingly common and public investment in effective treatment is nowhere near where it should be.

To get an appreciation for how far we still have to go when it comes to combating stigma, consider this disturbing statistic from a CDC survey conducted in 2007: "Only 25 percent of adults with mental health symptoms believed that people are caring and sympathetic to persons with mental illness."

They have good reasons to hold this view -- according to a 2013 report published in Administration and Policy in Mental Health, "Public stigma of mental illness in the U.S. continues to be widespread among children and adults." A 2009 study published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior reported that 68 percent of Americans don't want someone who's mentally ill to marry into their families. And 58 percent wouldn't even feel comfortable with a mentally ill coworker.

Then there's the lack of access. A 2008 Harris Interactive/American Psychological Association poll found that "25 percent of Americans do not have adequate access to mental health services and 44 percent either do not have mental health coverage or are not sure if they do." Moreover, a 2006 survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Agency reports that nearly half of Americans who suffer from severe psychological distress and problems with substance abuse don't receive any form of treatment. It shouldn't be surprising that there are 10 times more mentally ill Americans in our jails and prisons than in state psychiatric hospitals. …

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