Policy Problem: Caring for the Mentally Ill
The healthcare system, as a whole, faces many challenges when caring for vulnerable populations. Included in this population are individuals suffering from mental illness. More than 450 million people suffer from a mental health condition (WHO, 2010). Mental health and suicide prevention should be made national priorities. With the lack of resources and public knowledge of this population, healthcare providers are struck with the difficult task of educating the public of the importance of “mental health for overall health.” Public attitudes, and the stigma attached with mental illness, is a major barrier to treatment. Those suffering from mental illness are deprived of the treatment and support they need due to low self-esteem and feelings of hopelessness, derived from the stigma attached by the public. Poor mental health is associated with exclusion from social groups, difficult work environments, unhealthy lifestyles, risk of violence and poor physical health, and violations of human rights (WHO, 2010). Access to quality care is lacking, as well as, early mental health screenings and referrals, which should be made a common practice. More research in this area is critical, along with, improved quality of care for mental health.
Individuals living with severe mental illness accounted for 9.8 million adults in the year 2008. Among these, 58.7 percent used mental health services, 40.5 percent received outpatient services, and a little over seven percent received inpatient services for a mental health problem (Addiction and Mental Health Treatment Center, 2009). Globally, there is a chance that one out of four people will experience some kind of mental health condition in their lifetime (World Health Organization, 2010). In the state of Alabama, there are about 187,000 adult residents and about 51,000 children living with a serious mental illness (National Alliance on Mental Illness, 2010).
Since the United States has been notorious for failing to set mental health as a priority, many lives have been at risk. Individuals with serious thoughts of committing suicide account for an estimated 8.3 million adults, 2.3 million adults made plans with 1.1 million reporting and attempt at suicide. Over a half million were reported being hospitalized for a suicide attempt in the year 2008 (Addiction and Mental Health Treatment Center, 2009). In the state of Alabama, 580 residents died in the year 2006 by suicide. Nationally, one life is lost to suicide every 15.8 minutes (NAMI, 2010). Worldwide, someone dies of suicide every 40 seconds. Suicide is the leading cause of preventable death among young adults (WHO, 2008). About 90 percent of the people who commit suicide have a mental disorder; many do not receive mental health care in the months before their death (Townsend, 2009).
In the year 2001, depression was the leading cause of disability worldwide and will be the second...