More than 46 million adults over the age of 18 have experienced some element of mental illness.
In fact, the rate is 50 percent higher for those between the ages of 18 to 25, compared to those above the age of 50. The impact of mental illness on the American society is crippling our national identity. What is most concerning is whether these staggering statistics on incidents are a reflection of poor access to mental health coverage and care, or a symptom of underlying social-economic pressures that push susceptible individuals over the brink.
What happened at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., is a narrative that has unfortunately become a recurring theme for our nation and its communities.
While we may be quick to jump to the obvious contributing factors, which could have precipitated such a horrific event, the underlying impact of mental health issues cannot be over emphasized. Three years ago, health plans were required to treat mental health care and treatment of substance abuse on par with physical illness.
The motivation behind this change was an increasing awareness about the relatively low percentage of individuals who seek counseling or treatment for mental health issues. In fact, many advocacy groups pushed for nearly two decades to get this law passed in order to ease the stigma of mental illness. While access to coverage and services for those with mental health issues has certainly improved, these same benefits don’t necessarily apply to the individual market, and employers that don’t provide any healthcare coverage aren’t required to provide mental health care either.
This situation is somewhat ironic in that those who are clearly under the most pressure to make ends meet, living in dysfunctional circumstances, are often the ones who need the most help. Yet, our ability to bridge this gap has been less than optimal.