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Sadly, the subject of mental health can figure into several debates in our country right now.  Because of how the current events shape up, many debates are triggered over mental health.

Of course one of the biggest debates is gun violence.  The Washington elites will of course point to the guns and complain that if it were not so easy to get guns, then there would be less deadly gun violence.

Now should be the time that our country comes together to face the facts of mental health. 

Those on the conservative right simply state the fact that guns don’t kill people, people kill people.  An obvious conclusion and over simplification.  There are many other tragic consequences resulting from our mental health problem in the country, including bullying, stalking, sexual abuse, drug abuse to name a few.

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Now should be the time that our country comes together to face the facts of mental health.  Mental health is not the answer to everything but it is an answer to a lot of things.  It has been widely known for years that our mental health system is woefully inadequate.  Let’s look no further than drug rehab.  As in so many cases, we have the issue of finances controlling the system.  Where there are precious little funds available to correctly treat addiction, to get addicts withdrawn from their chosen drug, by substituting a less addictive drug, subject the addict to group counseling and when their 30, 60 or 90 day treatment period is over, they are simply released to pretty much their own devices.

Today mental health treatment is relegated to clinics and behavioral health centers where funding is provided by Medicaid and other state funding.

If the addicts were in the court system they may have court supervision of some kind and have to check in with their court appointed supervisor.  Otherwise, they have no requirements to stay drug free.  Even those, under court supervision may not be getting drug tests to prove themselves drug free.

Other mental health issues have no better prognosis. Again the funding for mental health is woefully inadequate. Few, if any, hospitals today have facilities to treat mental health.  In 1960 congress passed the Community Mental Health Centers Act (CMHC) calling for deinstitutionalization and increased community services, authorizing construction grants for community mental health centers. This is when hospitals began getting out of the business of mental health. Today mental health treatment is relegated to clinics and behavioral health centers where funding is provided by Medicaid and other state funding.  Medicaid says they are the largest payer for mental health services in the U.S.  The best available care is only available to the wealthy.  ACA or other employer health insurers will only offer the minimum care coverage, where you’ll have treatment for perhaps ten therapeutic sessions with a psychologist or psychiatrist but once this is exhausted, you are on your own dime (until next year).

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If you are in real mental health crisis, you’ll be referred to (or committed to) a state mental health hospital.  This is provided your behavior doesn’t land you in jail first.  A study done by the Treatment Advocacy Center and the National Sheriffs Association, point out that the criminal justice system is said to be the largest institution for the mentally ill.  However, you’ll get no treatment there for your illness.  Perhaps counseling for criminal rehabilitation, perhaps drug therapy for withdrawal from an addictive drug, or a drug to treat your diagnosed malady.

…overwhelmed with patients, inadequate care, and antiquated mental health laws that protect patient rights but not the public at large.

It is likely that all state operated mental health hospitals are in the same cash-strapped position… overwhelmed with patients, inadequate care, and antiquated state mental health laws that try to protect limited mental health patient rights, but not the public at large.   Some patients are released from facilities without family or caregiver support, by staff whose hands are tied and cannot get old laws changed or new laws passed.  Once back out on the streets, a mental health patient is able to travel at will and free to conduct himself or herself however they choose.

These (former) patients are themselves vulnerable to crime and abuse.  Some will perhaps turn to crime or become abusers themselves.  In their world of being a castaway, it may become a game of daily survival.  The strong of these may gain some control, the weak will certainly be victimized.

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Our country now has tens of thousands of hospitals, treating millions of patients daily.  Huge trauma centers for the critically ill, injured, and burned.  The American Cancer Society reported that in 2014 the cost to treat cancer was $87.8 billion, The American Heart Association reported that the 2015 cost of cardiovascular disease cost the nation an estimated $316.6 billion in health care costs.  A report from the Surgeon General published in 2016, says the country spends $442 billion a year in dealing with drug and alcohol abuse alone.  Consider this cost when factoring in drug addiction “patients” are typically also criminals who are robbing, stealing and burglarizing to support their habit.  Besides the victims they leave behind through their crimes, they likely stress, bully, traumatize, abuse and assault friends and loved ones.  Those victims now become tomorrow’s mental health patients, suffering from mental and physical breakdowns, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

We have all been made aware of the deficiencies of the Veterans Hospitals. They are run by lying, corrupt, bureaucrats given their jobs as political favors.

Then look at what happens to our nations veterans.  We have all been made aware of the deficiencies of the Veterans Hospitals. They are often run by lying, corrupt, bureaucrats given their jobs as political favors.  It works the same at the state mental health hospitals as well.  Run by politicians rather than qualified business or medical administrators.  The veterans who have served their country, sacrificed years of their lives for us, are cast aside.

Much of course is PTSD related, but there are so many more diagnoses overlooked due to poor care being provided, or otherwise unavailable.  The Veterans Administration has cited Veteran suicides as a public health crisis, averaging 22 veteran suicides a day.  What does this tell us about our nation, about caring for our veterans, about healthcare and mental healthcare for our veterans?

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PTSD is a mental illness.  Wounded Warriors Project states that more than 540,000 veterans have been diagnosed with PTSD.  PTSD is not limited to veterans.  First responders and others in the general population are subject to various types of shock and trauma that can result in PTSD.   The symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, depression and confusion.  Only about half of those that meet the criteria for PTSD ever consult a physician or mental health professional.

And finally, our society has in recent weeks and months been facing the realities of sexual abuse.   There are many debates voiced about what should and should not happen to the accused.  These debates are certainly needed, but first, let’s establish that the sexual abuser too, suffers from a mental health disorder.

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Courtesy of Associated Press                              Courtesy of CNN

Various studies over the years indicate, abusers are often themselves, victims of sexual abuse.  It is a recognized cycle that has been cited as one cause of the seeming repetition and pervasiveness of sexual abuse.

But just as the sexual abuse may in some cases trigger the victim to become an abuser, there are other cases that emerge without that trigger.  Also we need to look at the spectrum of sexual abuse.  It takes many forms; from minor harassment to stalking; from an unwanted touch, grope or kiss to rape.  And there is still more.  There is the entire subject area of child sexual abuse, which includes incest, child pornography, and child exploitation.  Per a Psychology Today article, an estimated 20 percent of American children have been sexually molested, making pedophilia a common paraphilia.

In summary, the above discussion does not cover all mental illness, mental health disorders or related diseases.  We are only hoping to raise awareness of the pervasiveness of mental health issues throughout our society and how they are affecting society at large.

While Washington politicians are wasting billions or trillions of dollars on unneeded programs and government giveaways, simply attempting to buy votes to stay in office, taxpayers are left paying the bill. Law enforcement is put at great risk, the public at-large is put at risk, mental health centers are understaffed and strained to provide all the needed care, state mental health hospitals are understaffed and equally strained to provide needed care.  Our children are at risk it seems almost anywhere, in school, sports, community activities.

We’ve witnessed what can occur when someone who has been through the criminal justice system, and should be outlawed from purchasing a gun, but slipped through the system. We’ve witnessed what can occur when those who never were through the system have legally purchased guns when they should have been prevented doing so.  These represent the most horrendous results.

At some point, the voters have to begin holding politicians accountable for doing the job they were elected to do.  Don’t let the politicians spout blather about what’s wrong, blame the opposition party, then continue their personal agenda of garnering votes by spending your money to get themselves elected.  Actively hold them accountable.

Make your voice heard by calling your congressional representatives offices or email them.  Your voice matters. If politicians hear from you, they will understand you are motivated and will be voting.  If they don’t respond as you want, or don’t vote as you ask, then take your case to the ballot box at PRIMARY election time.  And then you must also vote in the GENERAL election.  Our great country offers us, the voters, the opportunity to influence what is important to us as voters and as taxpayers. Let us please not waste that opportunity.

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