Mental Health Issues Swamp Healthcare System

134043121The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that one in four Americans suffer from some type of mental health problem. Only one in 7 suffer from serious mental illness; however the need for medical care for the various mental health issues that face U.S citizens puts a big strain on the health care industry. Mental health officials are predicting that it will only get worse in the coming

What is Causing the Mental Health Industry Strain

The poor economic climate in the United States has created a great deal of strain on people, and in turn an increase in depression, as well as other mental health issues. This, along with an aging population means that demands on the mental health system are growing at a faster rate than ever before. To add to the strain, health investigations in the United States reveal thousands of sick and wounded soldiers need psychological care. A report from New York’s Fort Drum back in 2009 showed health clinics were backed up on and off base for soldiers suffering from depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Boomers and Mental Health

The Institute of Medicine was asked by U.S Congress to look at health care needs expected in light of a growing population of aging citizens. The senior population will reach just over 72 million by 2030. The Institute reports that 20 per cent of seniors currently suffer from mental health problems including depression, dementia, and drinking related issues. The research by IOM did not take other brain related illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease into consideration. They did however look at aging baby boomer’s use of illicit drugs, which have a big impact on brain function. As one New York geriatric psychiatrist has pointed out, “the Woodstock Generation has come of age.”

The Mental Health Workforce Shrinks

Reports out of the United States also seem to indicate that the number of health care providers in the country is shrinking. To add to the dilemma, the number of people with special training in aging and mental health is very low.

According to Pentagon documents there is a chronic shortage of psychologists and social workers to treat those who are suffering on bases across the U.S. At one Hawaii infantry division, it was determined that there was only one mental health officer for every 265 cases. The military standard is supposed to be one to 50.

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Long-term unemployment and foreclosure has led to widespread depression in the United States. For many Americans the pressure of not being able to pay the bills and take care of their families is just too much. The Centers for Disease Control states that the number of people who are clinically depressed has increased by at least 3 per cent since 2002. A 2011 study on long-term unemployment showed that 11 per cent of those who lost their jobs were seeking help for depression.  Over 1,500 additional people committed suicide annually in the United States between 2008 and 2010. These years were some of the worst in terms of economic decline in America.

The Institute of Medicine suggests that the health system needs a huge overhaul. The first step they say will be organizing a better health care workforce. The existing workforce needs to be trained in working with the elderly. In other words, if you already treat the brain or patients with depression, you need to learn how to care for seniors with these issues. The IOM is calling for better funding so primary care providers, such as nurses and nursing home attendants will be better equipped to help seniors with mental health problems. Closer attention also has to be paid to the care that is required on military bases; after all we owe so much to our soldiers.





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