Columns / Discourse / February 8, 2017

One Mind: Looking at Mental Illness’ present and future

Last week, I spoke briefly about the history of mental illness. To be fair, it is a very complex topic but I would encourage those who are interested to explore it further. Having talked about the past, there is still the question of what are the realities of mental illness now, and where are we going in the future?

Honestly, this is not an easy question to answer. Today, mental health is in some very dire straits, and, though anything can happen, there is not a lot that suggests things will improve very soon, at least not without a lot of effort from the public. As things currently stand, people with mental illness are greatly impacted by their treatment in society. The following are all facts taken from the website of the National Alliance for Mental Illness, or NAMI at Nami.org. A few facts are from sources cited on their website:

  • People wait an average of a decade after showing symptoms of a mental health condition before they seek treatment.
  • Thirty-seven percent of students with a mental illness that are 14 and older don’t complete school. No other group suffers a dropout rate as high.
  • Seventy percent of those in the juvenile justice system have at least one mental health issue.
  • Seventy percent of those in the juvenile justice system have at least one mental health issue.
  • This compares with 24% of adult prisoners. Compare both of these statistics with the national average. 20% will experience mental illness in their lives.
  • Nearly half of the homeless population in the United States (forty-six percent) suffer from serious mental illness
  • Half of children and sixty percent of adults did not get any mental health treatment in the past year.
  • LGBTQ individuals are twice as likely to have a mental health condition than non-LGBTQ individuals. Of these, over 10% of the transgender community (eleven percent, to be exact) were refused mental help due to discrimination. LGBTQ youth are also twice as likely to attempt suicide as non-LGBTQ youth.
  • Half of all adults who suffer from addiction also have another mental illness. (Addiction is classified as a mental illness.)
  • Over 113 people per day, or roughly 41,000 people per year commit suicide. That’s over one every quarter hour. Suicide is particularly high among teens and young adults. Of those under 18, 90% of suicides have a mental health issue.
  • That is roughly four times the number of homicides committed in the average year. Of the 113 suicides per day, an estimated 18 to 22 of them are veterans.

With those facts in mind, I will speculate on the future of the mentally ill. Honestly, things may depend on the next few weeks. President Trump has nominated Betsy DeVos to run the education system, and the Senate has approved her. Aside from seriously backward stances regarding the LGBTQ community, she has also made comments insinuating that she may not support special programs for those with disabilities, which technically include much of the mentally ill community.

Even so, politics as a whole has not been very responsive to the plights of people with mental illness. The media tends to exploit violence committed by people with mental illness despite it not actually being very common instead of focusing on the wide range of problems they face. Many gun control supporters specifically want people with mental illness taken off the eligibility list (Which is understandable in terms of suicide prevention, especially amongst men, but should probably be accompanied by legislation proposed to help people with mental illness and alleviate their current circumstances.) Mental health, despite its relative scarcity over the past 50 years, is not even one of the major talking points in most elections. In short, things are not going to be better moving forward unless the public demands it, and now is as good a time as ever.

Tony Rogde-Hinderliter

Tags:  column discourse mental illness one mind

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