The National Alliance on Mental Illness has declared the week of Oct. 4 – 10 to be Metal Health Awareness Week. In the United States, we have an abundance of individuals who suffer from mental health problems, and a great lack of resources to do anything real about them. In the news, we are hearing far too often of people being harmed or killed, often by strangers who are suffering from a wide range of mental illnesses from depression to paranoid schizophrenia. In almost all the cases, the perpetrators were known to have an illness that was not being adequately treated.
This issue is of extreme importance to me. Within my family alone, even in my own home, there are individuals who suffer from ADHD, Anxiety, Autism, Bipolar Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, and Reactive Attachment Disorder. Some of these issues have even led to suicide. I myself suffer from Depression, and mild Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. I am not ashamed to admit these things though, because there should be no stigma attached to these illnesses any more than there would be if I had diabetes or cancer. There is wiring in my brain and chemicals that are out of balance that I have no control over. I am very lucky that my depression is being successfully treated through medication and therapy, and my OCD is mild enough that I can live with the discomfort it sometimes causes me.
But I am lucky, because I have decent medical insurance and the money to pay for treatments that insurance does not cover. This is far too often not the case. Many therapists, counselors and psychiatrists are no longer accepting insurance of any kind because of the hassles and regulations they are forced to abide. Even those that do accept private insurance will often not accept Medicaid or Medicare. There is a vast lack of counselors available for some of the hardest problems to treat. I know from personal experience that when I went in search of help for my children with attachment and trauma issues, I could find only one person in the area who specialized in those areas, and she did not take insurance. One person. This means that there are far too many people, not just in the Indianapolis area but around the country, who are not receiving proper treatment.
As we have seen, when mental illness is not treated properly, not only can the victim suffer, but many more may pay the price down the line. Among the homeless population, it is estimated that 20 – 25% suffer from severe mental illnesses that are going unchecked, which is often the reason they are homeless in the first place. As parents, we are the first line of defense in helping our children battle mental illness should it become a part of their life. Know the warning signs, and if you have even the smallest of concerns, seek help and don’t think you can just handle things alone. You would take your child to the doctor if you saw that he was in physical pain, why should it be any different if he is in emotional or psychological pain? Mental illness is nothing to hide from. Instead, it should be tackled as early as possible and with full force to find a treatment that is best. I have to be an advocate for myself, and my children. If you have any concerns for someone you know, please reach out and be an advocate too.
To learn more about the warning signs of mental illness click here
To take an anonymous screening for mental illness click here