America is in a place and time in history where there is less of a stigma around mental health than there has ever been. People are having more conversations on the topic of mental health. People are sharing unashamedly their personal stories surrounding mental health. If you were to look on the outside, it would seem that overall state of mental health would be improving. In reality, that is far from the truth. While it is more culturally acceptable to talk about mental health, there is still a stigma surrounding it, particularly specific diagnoses. While people are talking about it more, there are still plenty of conversations that need to be had. And, while many agree things need to improve, there is still a lack of solutions being offered or enacted as a whole. There are plenty of reasons why America is in such a disastrous state of mental health, but here are a few to note:
The rise of issues in younger generations: Mental health issues are on the rise in younger generations. According to the CDC, in 2016, suicide was the second leading cause of death between the ages of 10 and 24. About 50% of mental illnesses begin by age 14 (America Psychiatric Association). Suicide rates reached a 40 year high among young girls in 2015 (CDC). Mental health issues are impacting young people, but many of them are not receiving a diagnosis or getting treatment.
A shortage in mental health professionals: Overall, there is a shortage in mental health professionals across the country. If you live in more urban areas, you might find yourself with more options. However, there are many of people who live in more rural areas of the country. Rural areas have fewer resources and less mental health professionals. There are often a small number of people trying to serve large geographic areas. Even then, there are not always a lot of options in terms of quality. This also leads to people searching for alternative solutions, such as e-counseling. While these alternatives may help some, the total effectiveness if often questioned.
A lack of resources: There are not a lot of options for care for a many people. Even within for specific mental health providers, those individuals and institutions often have limited resources including adequate funding. There is even a shortage of beds in mental health facilities across the country. It leaves people nowhere to really go sometimes resulting in them living on the street or in prison.
Insurance issues: Even after the passing of the Affordable Care Act, not everyone has insurance. Amongst those who do have insurance, some insurance plans do not provide adequate coverage for mental health related issues. Facilities can also have trouble receiving sufficient reimbursement from insurances including both Medicare and Medicaid.
A rise in the drug crisis such as opioids: Drug addictions are often comorbid with mental health issues and vice versa. Addiction can cause significant impairment to the brain and overall life that can push people towards mental illness. Individuals with a diagnosable mental illness can turn to their own ways of self-medicating including drug use. With the drug crisis on the rise, especially the recent opioid epidemic, the mental health state for many Americans is suffering.
There are many factors contributing to the disastrous state of mental health in America. These touch on a few of those factors that are likely playing a key role. In order for anything to change, mental health will have to become a priority and a crisis that the country handles together.