A lot of questions have been sent my way regarding the opinion I wrote yesterday, “National Mental Wellness Insurance.” Oddly enough, fellow conservatives haven’t pummeled me. In fact, it was just the opposite: Most reasonable people realize mental-illness-related issues are costing our nation more than any other single health issue. And it doesn’t stop with healthcare, as a great many incarcerations and addictions originally stem from mental-health problems.
As much as this is a mental-health discussion, it is also an urgent deficit conversation. Much like families must discuss and plan on ways to avert monetary crisis, the government also must learn to take an honest and realistic look at how to creatively spend money, even when it defies one’s party lines. Most moms can relate to healthy-eating concepts and understand it is a choice: Either spend extra money on healthy foods at the grocery store, or spend even more at the doctor and dentist. Again, even for moms, there are other, related-but-hard-to-quantify price tags, some of might be quite costly, like missed work.
Creativity is of utmost importance, since the idea of the federal government controlling mental health and wellness in a hands-on manner is a disastrous concept — one that might even be worse than the situation we are currently dealing with in our overcrowded courts and prisons. So, we must note that “federal funded” should not always mean “federally operated.” We do not need another VA crisis. Nevertheless, the federal government is already spending money, due to the lack of good mental-wellness treatment, especially as an early-intervention option.
At the current crisis level, finding a solution should not be treated as an option, but as an obligation. Our elected officials must roadmap a creative plan to prevent the current catastrophe into an ongoing, permanent state of affairs. Like flood insurance, it is a no-win, no-profit problem that private insurance is not going to tackle from a preventative, nonpharmaceutical position. Mental wellness is much more than medication. Prescribing the wrong medication for a poorly diagnosed condition compounds the problem.
According to Owen Bargreen in his book Starting a Successful Practice in Clinical Psychology and Counseling, many psychologists have seen a significant decline in income over the past decade. According to the New York Times, fewer psychiatrists accept insurance than any other professional. Considering the rise in addiction, prescribed drugs, crime, and incarceration — not to mention a rise in population — this is blasphemous. Perhaps as tragically, schools are cutting counselors to save money. It’s almost laughable, as it likely costs them many times more than it saves.
What does going to the wrong doctor get for the patient? You don’t let a family physician do your appendectomy. So why are family physicians and pediatricians treating emotional and psychological issues? Could it be that they are doing more harm than good? How often do they over diagnose, overmedicate, or use one of the catch-all diagnoses like depression, anxiety, attention deficit disorder, or autism?
A middle-class insured woman I know has suffered from a sleep problem for many years. Now 68 years old, she has three deceased children. Each death was tragic, though two were expected. Her youngest was killed 25 years ago at the age of 16, when a motorist, blinded by the bright western evening sun, ran over him on his bike. Throughout the years, she has sought help for a sleeping disorder: bad dreams, night terrors, sleep walking. Her treatments by several family physicians have been exercises in guessing — breathing machines, antipsychotic medication, depression medication. Finally, after years of begging her to find a psychiatrist, she did, and now she is appropriately being treated for PTSD. She feels almost normal for the first time in decades.
Even so, still, it might not be so bad if an individual could see a doctor in a timely manner. Recently, a person told me that they called for an appointment to see a family doctor for some serious depression, and they were scheduled for eight months later. Of course, this doesn’t even address an increasing population who won’t get even that far.
More federal funding and insurance doesn’t solve all the problems. It is imperative that we reeducate and remove the stigma attached to the proactive approach to good mental health. Part of that means keeping private matters private. This is a problem that always arises with government involvement. In addition, it cannot be federally mandated as a purchase. States can mandate, but the concept would need a lot of exploration. Nevertheless, these issues should not obscure the real circumstances that already have society paying and suffering from the lack of diagnosis and care.
Much like the flood-insurance, program this would be a plan aimed at the middle class. It would make mental-wellness treatment possible and, above all, obtainable, with an affordable price tag geared toward treatment by trained mental-health workers. Addiction and mental illness cause many middle-class citizens to lose socioeconomic status. By helping this group, we reduce those less fortunate. For those already poverty stricken, it doesn’t change government financial expenditures. Still, government must improve where it can.