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The Stigma of Mental Health

Mental health is just as important as physical health. I believe as a country we have put our health on the back burner and it is truly beginning to build up into a gigantic issue. Everyone knows that the United States leads the world in obesity rates. But, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, tens of thousands of people in the United States suffer from mental illness as well, but the scary part is that only about half of those affected receive treatment. That means there are thousands of people in this country silently suffering with no treatment or help whatsoever. Most of these people have mild to moderate mental health issues, but some of these people must be suffering from severe mental disorders or disabilities, which could potentially lead to dangerous situations for themselves and others.

Yet, mental disorders are historically looked down upon and cast aside. There is a stigma associated with mental disorders that causes too many people to ignore their symptoms or those of someone they know. This can lead to worsening symptoms such as suicidal thoughts and thoughts of hurting others. No one can deny that mass shootings in our country outnumber that of most other developed countries. While everyone debates gun control, thousands of people go untreated for mental disorders that could easily be helped and rehabilitated back into society.

Things won’t change until our perceptions of mental disorders and the stigma surrounding them are changed. While there are thousands of people in our country going untreated who could potentially do significant harm, there are also those thousands who are being treated and work in the cubical right across from you with complete success. Having a mental disorder shouldn’t be a jail sentence. Those diagnosed with depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, panic attacks, schizophrenia or most other disorders are capable, with the right treatment, to live and work peacefully along with everyone else. Why shouldn’t they get that chance?

So, what is the solution? There are several barriers to access to good healthcare. First of all, the stigma of admitting you have a problem, then seeking out the help that is necessary. Next is the high cost of mental healthcare. If someone has insurance that covers mental health, it can still cost hundreds of dollars per appointment just to be diagnosed, receive the right medication and go to follow-up appointments to assure the medication is administered properly. Many insurance policies do not even cover mental health, which is another huge issue.

Perhaps if we can start making mental disorders more accepted and bring more awareness to the cause, insurance companies will follow with more coverage options. With more coverage options and less degradation associated with mental disorders, more people would see the warning signs and get help when they need it. This could lead to a happier and safer country for everyone.

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