Disclaimer: To protect the privacy of the people I interviewed for this essay, I have changed their names.
One in four people in the United States suffer from a mental health disorder. Forty-one thousand, one hundred and fifty people commit suicide each year and over 90% of those people suffer from a mental health disorder of some kind, whether it was diagnosed or undiagnosed. Given the facts, why does society keep mental health disorders all under wraps but makes a huge noise about gay marriage? When mental health comes up in the news, it’s often when a criminal is said to have a certain mental health disorder but after a while it is quietly put away because society thinks people with mental health disorders need to be locked up. (Silber 2). Mental health disorders are dangerous, debilitating and people need to be more aware of the complications that surround them.
First of all, what exactly is a mental health disorder? According to Mayo Clinic, a mental health disorder is a condition that affects a person’s mood, thinking and behavior. It covers a wide variety of diseases from Schizophrenia, to Anxiety to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, to eating disorders such as Bulimia and Anorexia (Mayo Clinic Staff).
Mental health disorders affect people in a myriad of ways. For people with Anxiety, their autonomic nervous system perceives many things as a threat, even if said thing isn’t a threat at all. The threat causes their “fight or flight” system to go into “fight” mode when it shouldn’t. This response causes vicious cycles of panic attacks. In severe cases, this can lead to phobias such as agoraphobia, or the fear to leave the house (Wade 382).
Sometimes people are dealing with more than one devastating mental disorder. Eighteen year old Angelina, has anxiety and depression. She grew up with stomach issues for most of her life which is what started her panic attacks in the first place. She said it’s like nothing agrees with her digestive system. Some of these cramps get so bad that she is in the restroom for hours in excruciating pain and none of the doctors she’s seen can figure out why. Because of this she has cut back on how much she eats as a way of avoiding the anxiety when now she knows that she should be attacking the problem head on. She is now in therapy for her eating induced anxiety in hopes that she can gain weight and kick these panic attacks to the curb (Fleming).
Angelina also had depression. She says her depression stemmed from re-watching a medical TV show that deals with a condition that has affected her family. She said that the first few weeks after watching those episodes were very hard for her. She cried herself to sleep for a week straight and eventually she found it hard to enjoy things she loved to do. She constantly thought about how unfair it was for this person to be ripped away from her family. She thought about trying to ease the pain with alcohol but never went thought with it because it was the strength of the character on the TV show when dealing with the tragedy that got her through the depression. Almost a year later, Angelina is doing a lot better. She has now decided to become a psychotherapist in hopes to save other peoples lives in the same way that this character saved hers. “Even though the depression was a dark bottomless hole, I am glad I went through that. It helped me find my purpose in life. I looked for light in a dark place and now I know I will survive whatever comes my way next.” (Fleming).
Along those same lines, nineteen year old Travis has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. He says that it started during his early teen years. It was mild for a while but it soon spiraled out of control and became the catalyst for his depression. He kept feeling emotions that were out of place and hearing thoughts that weren’t his. Through medication and support from friends, he has overcome his OCD and depression (Kelly).
On the other side of the spectrum, a mental health disorder can actually change the way a person perceives the world. For nine year old Brianna, born with early-onset schizophrenia, has a completely different world from us. According to the video about her story, she sees people, such as Seven, who commands her to do things, such as stabbing her mom with a pair of scissors. It is believed that Seven is actually a person Brianna becomes which means that she also has Dissociative Identity Disorder which is another devastating and dangerous mental health disorder in which someone has multiple personalities. (Longthorne).
One other difficult but dangerous mental health disorder to diagnose is psychopathy. These people can be serial killers. All though they may seem to have charm, it is superficial charm and they are most likely going to manipulate you. These people have no remorse for loss of human life and no empathy for the crimes they commit. They are extremely violent and are the types of people who will go to a mall and shoot a bunch of people for enjoyment. They need stimulation, like killing people and that is why they do what they do (Wade 383).
For example, in 2003, Gail Sands was found floating in her pool face down along with a twenty foot ladder. It was said that she had fallen when she was trying to move the ladder in order to clear some tree branches, so it was ruled as an accident. It wasn’t until the medical examiner noticed the trauma marks on the back of her head during the autopsy that indicated that it wasn’t an accident. It was brutal murder. No one who knew the couple, would have thought that her own husband, Lionel Sands would eventually be convicted as the murderer (Garrison)? To most people he was an ordinary human, but to a psychologist, it was very obvious he was a psychopath. He never looked you in the eye, he kept himself very isolated and he always seemed to be observing people he met and copying what they did (Laird).
In most cases, disorders such as anxiety, depression and even psychopathy can be treated with medication as well as one on one therapy with a psychotherapist. This kind of treatment is very costly for families without health insurance because these appointments can cost anywhere between $300 - $600 per session. Often times, this is why most people don’t go to therapy when they need it. In 2013, a study was done amongst adults ages eighteen and over. Fifty one percent said they can’t afford mental health treatment because the cost is too high, even if they had insurance for it (Mukherjee).
The cost of getting mediation is even higher; almost up to $1000 every three months without insurance (Keeler). And often times, medications don’t work, they become addictive which creates more problems in itself, or they can make the problem it’s trying to treat even worse. If we’re to take better care of ourselves, the cost of mental health care should be lower as to make it more affordable for people.
Why is mental health a public health concern? We have a growing number of people who commit suicide each year or go on a shooting rampage before ending their own life. As stated earlier, 90% of these people have one or more mental health disorders whether it was diagnosed or undiagnosed. Shootings like the ones at public places put everyone at danger. If we do more research into how we can save and treat people with mental health disorders, we can lower the chance of public shootings as well as the suicide rate.
Here is what we can do to help the people who want it. First, mental health care needs to be more affordable. There needs to be some sort of law, in which mental health care for everyone is either free or at very low cost. This will help people with low income get the treatment they deserve. No one deserves to have a mental health disorder and everyone who wants treatment should be able to get it. Secondly, in high schools especially, there should be a hired psychotherapist available to help students deal with their issues, whether that is being bullied to the point of suicide, or having panic attacks. In college, there are psychotherapists on staff, so why can’t high schools have it too? Most of the school shootings we see are in high school, which should be a red flag as to something that needs immediate attention. Also, all businesses should offer their employees with free mental health services with a certified psychotherapist. Maybe this would help a disgruntled employee not going on a shooting rampage. Society in general needs to be more aware of the different types of mental disorders there are and how to treat them efficiently. Lastly, all the people interviewed in this agree that instead of more medications for people with mental health disorders, we need an understanding amongst society. We need to have courage to tell people, “What has happened to us.” not so much, “What is wrong with us.” without feeling like society will lock us up for having a mental health disorder.
Mental Health is an ongoing and increasing problem in our country unless health insurance becomes more affordable for each and every person. Only then will we see a huge improvement in our everyday lives.
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