Easy access to mental healthcare beneficial to individuals and society

Beacon op-ed

The recent shooting in Newtown, Conn. has not only thrust the issue of gun control into the national conversation but also the issue of mental health care.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness defines mental illness as “medical conditions that disrupt a person’s thinking, feeling, mood,  ability to relate to others and daily functioning that result in a diminished capacity for coping with the ordinary demands of life.” These include obvious conditions like schizophrenia and bipolar disorde, as well as other more common conditions such as depression.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health 59 percent of adults sought treatment for a mental health disorder. Among those aged 18-25, 40 percent sought treatment.
Most choose to seek treatment from their family doctors instead of a mental health professional like a psychiatrist or psychologist. Some choose not to seek help because it can be hard to arrange for an appointment with a mental health professional, particularly in rural areas.
Coverage by health insurance is less routine than for prescription drugs for mental illness, which has lead to an over-reliance on drug therapy.
Only 5.6 percent of national healthcare spending goes toward treating mental health. According to the National Association of State Mental Program Directors, states have cut $4.35 billion in spending toward treating mental health.
People also get the misconception that treatment for mental health is for people that are “dangerous.” Some are afraid to seek treatment because they are afraid of being labeled as such.  In reality, this kind of care is for anyone, young or old, in the general population who needs some guidance and support in their lives.
At Wilkes, campus counseling is free and available to all students, but this isn’t always the case outside of the university.
The Obama Administration has made strides to help those with mental health issues through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (otherwise known as “Obamacare”).
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the law will require benefit packages that include treatment for mental health and substance use disorder services. It eliminates the practice of unequal health treatment, which has kept individuals with untreated substance use and mental health disorders from receiving important treatment services. It also improves access to mental health and substance use disorder treatment services through more equitable coverage.
One of the good things that has come out of Obamacare is the National Prevention, Health Promotion, and Public Health Council, which provides coordination and leadership at the federal level and in all executive agencies regarding prevention, wellness, and health promotion practices.
Under this is the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force, an independent panel of non-Federal experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine and is composed of primary care providers.
The task force recommends doctors to discuss preventive services with patients deemed eligible to receive the services based on letter scale. A rating of “A” or “B” means services are recommended while a rating of “I” means there is insufficient evidence to make a recommendation. These services include adult depression screenings and adolescent and child major depressive disorder screenings.
The Beacon believes the Obama Administration is doing a good job in attempting to address the issue of mental health treatment through Obamacare, but it isn’t enough. Mental healthcare providers need to be as readily available and covered by insurance the same way medical doctors are. This means psychologists and psychiatrists both need to be able to write referrals for the proper prescriptions for treatment.
Mental illness is a medical condition that affects a person’s day to day life. This is the same as any other kind of disease or condition which treatment is covered by health insurance. Without adequate treatment, people with mental illness can be a danger to themselves people around them.
However, with the state of mental healthcare treatment being what it is, there may be more of the mentally ill harming themselves and others. The Beacon believes this should not have to happen. We believe with adequate treatment, people with mental health issues can live normal, functioning lives.