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Making American Mental Health Care a Priority

9/11 American Flag In the wake of several recent violent attacks across America, including three people killed at Jewish faith and community centers, the stabbing of high school students in Pennsylvania, and the shooting of soldiers at Fort Hood, it’s that time again for the media to question and explore gun control, the root of violence, and even adequate mental health care across the country.

Last post, I discussed the unwillingness of government authorities in the state of Florida to take an educated look at the needs of patients and consumers in the mental health system.

This is an unfortunate trend, locally and federally.

While most people with mental health disorders do not engage in violence, and are actually more often the victims of violent acts, it is clear, through the nearly periodic news of deadly shootings and stabbings, family tragedies, and lost lives, that we, as a society, are failing those that are mentally troubled.

As the Washington Post says in their April 16th article about U.S. mental health care, not all of those that commit violent atrocities in America have a mental illness. But some of those people do have mental health issues.

In this country in general, can we honestly say we are doing all we can to prevent troubled people from harming themselves or others? That we are doing all that we can to make sure that those with mental disorders get the care they need?

To me, it only makes sense to fight stigma, not only by clearing up misinformation about people with a mental health condition, but by getting them medical treatment, so stigma does not in turn perpetuate, and so, most importantly, that American citizens are healthy and their quality of life increases.

Positively, the Affordable Care Act has added coverage for many U.S. citizens with mental disorders. This is not enough, though, because resources for mental health care are still, across the country, at a bare minimum.

The Washington Post article discusses some stir in Congress. Rep. Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania, for example, has a bill called  “The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act”, which is considered by supporters be a reasonable way to reform the system.

This bill is hailed as a way to reorganize the way the U.S. government spends their mental health services money, prioritizing initiatives that actually matter.

Proponents say that Medicaid mental health services would be improved that mental health clinics would be better funded.

It is not a unanimously supported bill, however. One repeated criticism is the bill expands the system’s capability to hospitalize or impose treatment on patients. These critics say that money should instead be invested in community care initiatives.

One thing is constantly clear—there is much disagreement about what mental health policies and programs work, and what are a waste of time and even oppressive to patients.

It is frustrating to see much debate, but no action, and even in the wake of years of unfortunate stories and under-served consumers, we are still, as a country, at a loss of what to collectively do next.

The answer is simpler than the steps that it takes to get there.

We want people with mental illness to be a medical priority in this country, and to have better access to care, no matter who they are or what they are going through.

My psychiatrist recently retired. To get an appointment with another doctor in the same office, I have to wait nearly two months.

This kind of real-life example is paramount to understanding just how difficult it is to receive timely and quality care, in all facets of the system.

What about those that are in crisis? That can’t afford to see a doctor or receive medication? How about those that don’t know where to turn, or where to get access to services?

Just like the push of the Affordable Care Act, the U.S. government needs to step up and make mental health care a plain Jane priority.

We need to see visible evidence that we are collectively doing something to change the horrors that could be prevented, easily prevented in the richest country in the world through better mental health care services.


Photo Credit: V Malazarte via Compfight

Making American Mental Health Care a Priority

Kat Dawkins

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APA Reference
Dawkins, K. (2014). Making American Mental Health Care a Priority. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 15, 2020, from


Last updated: 18 Apr 2014
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