Friday, November 22, 2013

The TAC Nails It: Loss of Treatment Options Now a National Crisis

(Nov. 22, 2013) The Creigh Deeds tragedy in Virginia sounded the national alarm bell over the United States’ shortage of psychiatric beds for people in psychiatric crisis. But what was lost in the fray was a discussion of the other tragedies that occur daily as a result of untreated mental illness.
creigh_deedsJails and prisons have replaced hospitals as the institutions housing the most psychiatric patients. Until we stop eliminating public psychiatric beds and start making treatment available before severely ill individuals become inmates, this will remain the case.
More people with untreated severe mental illnesses are living on America’s streets than are receiving care in hospitals. One study found that 28% of homeless people with previous psychiatric hospitalizations obtained some food from garbage cans, and 8% used garbage cans as their primary food source.  
Untreated severe mental illness is an increasing factor in officer-involved homicides. At least half the people shot and killed by police each year are believed to have mental health problems.
Even though violence against others and sensational mass killings attract the most media attention, suicide is the number one cause of premature death among people with schizophrenia, with an estimated 10% to 13% taking their own lives every year.
The mental illness treatment system in America is a disgrace, and the non-treatment of mental illness is a growing crisis. Let’s hope the events that left Creigh Deeds injured and his son Gus, 24, dead aren’t just the next fading headline but an impetus to address all the tragedies of untreated severe mental illness.
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