There is a mental health crisis in the United States, and very little is being done to fix it. Health care professionals have known about the problem for years, but it seems that it takes a national tragedy for the media to pay any attention.
According to a Mental Health America recent report, more than 43 million American adults suffer from a mental health disorder, and all signs indicate that this number will continue to grow. To make matters worse, more than half of Americans with mental health disorders have not received treatment in the past year.
Mental health care in this country is a joke. Unless we address the problem at its source, Americans will continue to suffer for generations to come.
The Role Social Media Plays in Mental Health Care
Over the past decade, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter have become fixtures of American life. While social media was first presented as a tool for bringing people together, it has become clear that it’s actually driving us farther apart.
Social media allows people to feel connected to one another without any of the risks that come with true intimacy. We can wish someone happy birthday, compliment their new haircut and laugh at their jokes all without ever gathering face to face. We become observers of our friend’s lives, not participants.
On social media, we can control the version of ourselves that we present to others. Only the best moments and most flattering pictures make it to the screen. When we interact with people in the real world, however, this facade can come crashing down. People are increasingly unwilling to take that risk.
Numerous studies have shown that there is strong evidence connecting social media use to substance abuse and mental health problems like depression, anxiety and eating disorders. The U.K.-based Royal Society for Public Health found that photo-sharing platforms like Instagram are creating a generation of young people with serious body image issues, which over time can contribute to a host of other mental health disorders.
Because social media encourages people to share an airbrushed version of their lives, it’s very easy to slip into the false belief that you are alone in your suffering, that in order to fit in, you’ll need to hide your pain from the world. When we repress our emotions in this way for too long, the inevitable result is loneliness, isolation and depression.
The Shocking Lack of Mental Health Care in America
The aforementioned Mental Health America report also said that 56.5 percent of adults suffering from mental illness have not received medical treatment in the past year. And of those who did seek medical care, 20 percent still complain of unmet treatment needs.
If we want to see any improvement in the American mental health crisis, a top priority needs to be providing health insurance for mental illness sufferers. In 2014, nearly 1 out of 5 adults with mental illness did not have health insurance. The situation was even worse in states that did not expand Medicaid services following the passage of the Affordable Care Act.
The scope of this problem varies from state to state. For example, in Massachusetts, only 2.7 percent of adults suffering from mental illness are uninsured, while in Nevada, the number is as high as 28.2 percent.
Unfortunately, having health coverage doesn’t guarantee prompt mental health treatment. As a culture, we need get better at recognizing mental illness in its early stages. There is a gap in time between the first appearance of mental illness symptoms and receiving treatment.
On average, during 84 percent of this gap in time, mental illnesses remain undiagnosed. To put it another way, if someone begins to suffer from depression and receives treatment for it two years later, it is likely that for about the first 20 months, the depression went completely undiagnosed.
We Owe It to Our Children to Find Mental Health Care Solutions
Young people are hit hardest by the lack of sufficient mental health care in the United States. It’s estimated that 88 percent of young people with major depression receive inadequate treatment, with 64 percent receiving no treatment at all.
Untreated mental illness in young Americans can quickly spiral out of control, as mental illness can lead to substance use disorder and various medical illnesses. In fact, a recent finding seems to indicate that people with depression have a life expectancy of five to 10 years shorter than the national average.
American youths deserve improved health care reform and mental health services. It’s not just a matter of making sure that young people are provided with adequate health insurance: We need to make sure that the mental health services they receive are specifically geared to their unique needs.
Taking care of mental illness in its early stages is the only way to stop the destructive cycle from continuing into the future.
What’s Your Take?
What’s your take on the American mental health care system? What changes would you make if you had the power? Have you personally struggled to find mental health care when you needed it most? Leave a comment below or come over to the Fight Addiction Now forum to discuss this important issue!