How Widespread is Mental Illness

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"How Widespread is Mental Illness"
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Is this the 2009 version of the United States where over forty million people take psychotropic prescription medicines directly marketed to them on TV? The country with thirty five million drug and alcohol addicted souls and over a million homeless? Is this the same United States with the highest incarceration rate in the developed world? What was that question again?

The question should not ask whether or not mental illness exists. The more appropriate question is, "when is our society going to accept mental illness and get serious about treating it?" Or are we just going to lock up people and let health insurance companies continue to benefit?

One in five Americans will be diagnosed with some form of mental illness in their lifetimes. The most common form of mental illness is depression. Most people suffering from depression can still function at some level. At its worst and in it's most most debilitating forms, mental illness and schizophrenia render some people virtually incapacitated. They are not able to function without medication and supervision. They will not have families, jobs, or live the American dream. They will be subjected to ridicule and disdain. Family members will suffer through associated stigma - each year about forty thousand people commit suicide. Our homicide rate is one of the worst in the developed world. Our single biggest "treatment facilities" are jails and prisons. Every mental health hospital runs at-or over capacity. Our city streets, alleys, and missions are feeling the pain of all of those self medicating souls. Insurance companies have tried to look the other way at mental illness as they try to capture every last dollar they can. That is reprehensible.

What does all of this mean? It means that one in five members of Congress, of the judiciary, of the armed services, of law enforcement, and of virtually every walk of life will fall prey to mental illness at some point in their lives. As they go about their lives, they are probably not going to make a big point of mentioning that there is something wrong with them, provided of course they have been diagnosed or are somewhat aware that things are not right to begin with. They are simply trying to earn a living and live their lives. Do you think that doesn't effect you? Do you think ignoring or denying the existence of mental illness is wise? Perhaps you think it's not your problem. Think about the shootings at Virgina Tech and Columbine. Suspects with a history of mental illness. Let me expand that horizon just a bit.

Adolph Hitler and Josef Stalin murdered millions of people. Do you think that it's possible that committing genocide, or annihilating millions of people is a rational or sane act? Those two people stand as stark reminders of what happens when we deny the existence of mental illness. Will we ignore the next one? Will there be a next one? One in five people are afflicted with mental illness, that includes world leaders.

Please don't take my word for it, take a look at mental illness on your own. It's existence is not only hard to deny, it's overwhelming.

More about this author: Garrett Anderson

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