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David Baxter

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Experts demand improved mental healthcare
By LISA CHUN

WASHINGTON, June 30 (UPI) -- Mental-health experts demanded better public education and comprehensive healthcare for mental illness in a House hearing this week.

Kay Redfield Jamison, founder of UCLA's affective disorders clinic, said that while there have been great advancements in the study of mental illness, there is still a lack of concern.

"The effort to develop new treatments for severe mental illness and to prevent suicide seem to be remarkably unhurried," said Jamison. "Every seventeen minutes in America, someone commits suicide. Where is the public outrage? Where is the public concern?"

Jamison, who has bipolar disorder, said she became consumed with suicide in her senior year in high school. When she was 28 years old she took an intentional overdose of lithium.

Jamison said she was fortunate enough to have had the money to afford proper care and to have support from family and friends, but many people with mental illnesses are not so lucky.

With many Americans unable to afford treatment, Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., said mental illness must be included in healthcare coverage, including Medicare. Companies such as IBM, AT&T and Pepsi Co. cover such disorders in their health plans and have benefited from it. Murphy said depression often leads to drops in employee attendance and output, costing employers money.

Rep. Nathan Deal, R-Ga., agrees the cost of untreated mental disorders exceeds the cost of medical care.

"The costs of untreated mental illness are staggering including homelessness, substance abuse, criminal abuse, incarceration, unemployment and suicide," Deal said.

Murphy also said it was important for health coverage to include therapy instead of medication alone for mental illnesses.

"Anti-depressant medication change mood but they don't change your mind," Murphy said. "Psychotherapy performed by a qualified practitioner is also needed to properly treat patients."

Rep. Lois Capps, D-Calif., said another problem with mental-health treatment is that many healthcare systems administer it incrementally.

"But denying patients coverage to psychotherapy by telling them that their mental health professional recommended a coursed treatment is unnecessary, and forcing those individuals to cope alone is exactly like putting a child with a broken limb back into the classroom with a pat on the back and a Band-Aid," Capps said.

Participants of the hearing agreed that another major problem with mental illnesses is the societal stigma surrounding it.

"Moreover the social and economic ramifications of being labeled mentally ill can be considerable and sometimes devastating," said Deal, chairman of the subcommittee.

Raymond DePaulo, director of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University, called mental illnesses such as depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia the "cancer of the 21st century."

"Cancer was stigmatized, depression still is," said DePaulo.

DePaulo said the hopelessness that was associated with cancer proved to be wrong and with strong efforts and research, cancer treatments have dramatically improved over the years and the same could be true of mental illnesses now.

He said though there is hope for the future of mental-health advancements, recent cuts in funding only hinder progress. DePaulo said while his faculty is usually very stable, it recently lost many young investigators due to a lack of funding.

"The result is palpable and very visible," DePaulo said. "They are going to places that don't offer them the same kind of scientific opportunities but where they're sure of being funded."

Pete Earley, author of the book "CRAZY: A Father's Search Through America's Mental Health Madness," said it is also important to reform current civil-liberties laws dealing with mental healthcare.

Earley's son started to suffer from a mental illness during college. When Earley took him to a hospital during a psychotic episode, doctors refused help because under state law, patients could only admit themselves into professional care unless they were an imminent threat to themselves or others.

Though after Earley's son broke into someone's home to take a bubble bath, he was charged with breaking and entering. Earley said he was appalled that the government refused to help his son's disorder but would punish him for it.

Earley said many mentally ill individuals are sent to prison instead of treated properly because of outdated civil-liberty laws created when most of the mental-health system was atrocious.

"I live in one of the wealthiest counties (Fairfax) in America. It can take a person with a severe mental illness six months to get into a treatment program, 2.7 years to get a case manager, 17.5 years to get into subsidized housing," Earley said.

Earley said he is constantly worried that his son is not taking his medication and close to another breakdown.

"Expecting someone with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia to treat themselves is like asking someone who has two broken legs to run a marathon," said Earley.

Earley demanded "leadership that will enable Mike and other sons and daughters to get help and not be turned away by a doctor who says, 'Bring him back when he tries to kill himself or kill you.'"
 

Halo

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Expecting someone with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia to treat themselves is like asking someone who has two broken legs to run a marathon," said Earley.

I really liked this quote.

Earley demanded "leadership that will enable Mike and other sons and daughters to get help and not be turned away by a doctor who says, 'Bring him back when he tries to kill himself or kill you.'"

I find this statement extremely sad that a doctor would say that because what, just what would happen if that person did try to kill themselves or another and succeeded. Who is to blame then. Personally I don't think that it is the patient to blame but the doctor. My opinion anyway.
 

momof5

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I agree with you Nancy on the dr being to blame in a situation where someone kills themselves or someone else and was turned away.

But, it would not fall that way. It would be someone else who would get the blame. :(
 

just mary

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I think that's much of the problem, someone has to take responsibility but mental illness is no one's fault, not the patient's or the doctor's. I think doctors are quite constrained in what they are allowed to do, I think most of them truly care about people but they aren't able to help due to financial constraints or the law or the threat of being sued. I think we're all responsible but with this in mind we can all work to a solution.

The following is a quote from Epictetus (Greek Stoic Philosopher), I really like it:

To accuse others for one's own misfortunes is a sign of want of education. To accuse oneself shows that one's education has begun. To accuse neither oneself nor others shows that one's education is complete.

Not that people should be excused for everything they do but there are some things in life that no ONE person is responsible for, like disease.
 

momof5

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Not that people should be excused for everything they do but there are some things in life that no ONE person is responsible for, like disease.

I have to disagree with this for some areas. Like post traumatic things. There are many things that are brought on by traumtic happenings in our lives.

Sexual abuse, child abuse, all forms of abuse can bring on many different illnesses etc..

I have post traumatic fibromyalgia which was caused by injuries to my back due to a fall at work from an unsafe product.

Maybe some illnesses could fall under that statement, but there are many others that don't. Just my 4 cents worth.
 

just mary

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Sorry Momof5, I meant a disease like cancer or depression or schizophrenia or bipolar disorder; much of the time these diseases have no definite cause like sexual abuse or child abuse, they just happen, we're not sure why. But sometimes they do have a discernible cause which is why I mentioned that not all people should be excused for everything they do.

I guess I was just trying to say that (in general) no one person (be it doctor, family member or friend) can be responsible for someone else taking their own life. For the most part, I don't think anyone will ever know why but maybe this article is saying that as a community we can make a difference, i.e. what policies and programs do we want our elected officials to instigate, what's important to us. If we pay taxes, where do we want these taxes going?

That was my 4 cents worth.

Take care :)
 

momof5

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It would be nice if as a communit this could happen.

Sometimes I get the impression that today nobody seems to care anymore about anything.
 

just mary

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I feel the same way. :(

But then I read this forum and maybe all hope is not lost, there are people out there who care about one another, maybe there is hope. :)
 

David Baxter

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just mary said:
But then I read this forum and maybe all hope is not lost, there are people out there who care about one another, maybe there is hope.

I agree. There used to be (maybe still is) a column in the Ottawa Citizen called Brown's Beat, which was about little things that people did to help others for no personal gain, often anonymously. There was a time when that was all I was able to read in the paper - the rest seemed to be all about people exploiting and being hateful to other people. Brown's Beat helped to remind me that papers report the bad stuff because it sells more papers, but that doesn't mean there isn't any good stuff.

I still believe that most people are good, caring, empathic people. Unfortunately, in this Age of Sensationalism, most of the time we don't hear about that aspect of humanity. But we need to remember that it still exists.
 

just mary

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Sorry, I was going to quote a whole lot of stuff that Dr. Baxter just wrote but there's no point - just read it for yourself.

I don't think I'm the only one who feels a lot of hate in the world, anymore. Most of us are human (to some extent :) ). Some days I just want to give everyone a big hug, other days I could just YELL at them all. This may not make sense but thanks for helping me figure this all out.

Take care,
 

momof5

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Uhmm, glad that we helped you figure it out, well whatever "it" was. :confused:

Sometimes it does exist Doc, but like you said, the "bad news" is what sells sadly.
 

ThatLady

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Yer dern tootin' there are still people in the world who care deeply and compassionately for others! There are also those who care for nobody but themselves, unfortunately. I agree with David, however. I think the former far outnumber the latter. It's just that the latter are, sometimes, a lot more vocal and visible with their nonsense. :(

When it comes to people with mental diseases, in the US these people are often admitted to acute care hospitals when they really shouldn't be. The doctors are afraid not to admit them when they show up in the ER threatening suicide for fear that they may take that action and the doctor will be held responsible and sued. There are so few facilities that are actually properly equipped and trained to deal with mental illness anymore. It's really quite sad that those who suffer from such maladies have noplace to go for good, effective treatment.
 

Halo

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I have to agree with you TL on the point that

It's really quite sad that those who suffer from such maladies have noplace to go for good, effective treatment.
 

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