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The Need for Community-Based Mental Health Services

February 1, 2011

You may have noticed that mental illness has been in the news a lot lately. The tragedy in Arizona last month sparked a lot of discussion on the relationship between mental illness and violence. But perhaps the more important question to ask is how we can prevent these tragedies – because they are avoidable.

An estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older — about one in four adults — suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year.
National Institute of Mental Health

Mental illness is much more common than you may think. One quarter of adults in America suffered from a mental illness in the past year. When you consider the prevalence of mental disorders, it’s important to realize that the frequency that a person’s illness deteriorates to the point where they become a serious danger to others, or themselves, is relatively rare. Having a meaningful point of intervention before an individual reaches this point is vital.

Community-based mental health services strive to offer an easy access point to people suffering from mental illness who don’t know where to turn for help. Unfortunately, an overburdened system means that many will continue to go untreated. When faced with barriers such as cost, wait times, and the stigma associated with mental illnesses, it is no wonder that so many go undiagnosed.

Across the country, many states have been forced to cut budgets for community-based mental health services. More and more people in need will be denied access to support.

Navigating the waters of doctors, insurance companies, and prescriptions is often confusing even for those who are in perfect health. With a mental illness added into the mix, seeking treatment can be a struggle, and ultimately many mentally ill men and women are left vulnerable. A community-based safety net is the first step for many in treating their illnesses and being able to thrive once again. There is no question that easier, widespread access to appropriate services would vastly improve the state of mental health in America.

Calvary Women’s Services has a long history of connecting women with mental illnesses to the appropriate support services. Keeping our programs low-barrier means that we are able to offer care to women who come to us with a wide range of needs. But the number of individuals we are able to serve can’t match the larger number of those in need in our community.

It’s unfortunate that often it takes a tragic event like this one in order to bring the shortcomings of the mental health system into focus. Reevaluating the way America treats mental illness is certainly no small task. But a small first step that you can take is educating yourself on mental illness. For more information, consult the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

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