About one in five people in the U.S. experience a mental health condition, but more than half did not receive treatment because of our inadequate mental health system. Over 1 in 10 adults with mental illness had no insurance coverage in 2018, but even with coverage, finding care is difficult because 60% of U.S. counties do not have a single practicing psychiatrist. Comprehensive, equitable coverage of mental health care should be the standard for everyone in our country, along with access to quality treatment when and where people need it.
People with mental health conditions are overly represented in our criminal justice system: over one-third of adults incarcerated in the state and federal prison system and nearly three-quarters of youth in the juvenile justice system have a diagnosable mental illness. Unfortunately, the lack of well-designed crisis care across the country has forced the criminal justice system to become a de facto mental health system. People should receive a safe and humane response to mental health crises to help prevent interactions with law enforcement.
People want, need and have the right to be meaningfully employed. However, our current system falls far short of this goal. Serious mental illness leads to over $190 billion in lost earnings each year in the U.S., and the unemployment rate is higher among adults with a mental illness compared to those who do not have a mental health condition. Full and fair access to education, vocational rehabilitation, job training, and employment and business assistance helps people with mental health conditions get and stay meaningfully employed.
Across the country, it continues to get more difficult to find an affordable place to live. For someone with a mental health condition, the lack of safe and affordable housing is one of the most powerful barriers to recovery. When this basic need isn’t met, people cycle in and out of homelessness, jails, shelters and hospitals. Sadly, one in five people experiencing homelessness has a serious mental health condition. Having a safe, affordable place to live can provide stability to allow someone to achieve their wellness goals.
Providing veterans with quality health care is a national responsibility, but our veterans are struggling. About 1 in 5 veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression. And each day, an average of 17 veterans die by suicide. Ensuring America’s veterans have timely access to high-quality mental health care is imperative to reduce the high rate of suicide among veterans and to provide quality of life for our veterans after their service to our nation.
One in six youth have a mental health condition. Yet, fewer than half of youth with mental health conditions received any kind of treatment in the past year. Undiagnosed, untreated, and inadequately treated mental illnesses significantly interfere with a student’s ability to learn, to grow, and to develop. Since children spend much of their productive time in educational settings, schools provide a unique opportunity to address mental health by serving students where they already are – in classrooms and on campus.
Immigration to the U.S. is a complex and stressful process. New immigrants experience cultural changes, xenophobia, and discrimination, all which can have negative consequences for their mental well-being. Unfortunately, during the immigration process, people usually lack access to comprehensive health care, including mental health services and supports. Individuals and families should be able to access quality and affordable mental health care regardless of their income, geographic location, or immigration and citizenship status.
Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) face additional barriers when it comes to receiving mental health care, like higher levels of stigma within the community, fewer mental health professionals in their area and little availability of providers with a similar background or who speak the same language. Mental health treatment rates show the disparity: for instance, nearly 70% of Black adults with a mental health condition received no treatment at all. It is essential for culture and identity to be a part of the conversation when discussing mental health policy.
The LGBTQI community experiences higher rates of mental illness and faces barriers to accessing mental health care. The Trevor Project found that 46% of LGBTQI youth report they wanted psychological or emotional counseling from a mental health professional but were unable to receive it in the past year. Additionally, transgender adults are nearly 12 times more likely to attempt suicide than the general population. Early intervention and comprehensive evidence-based treatment are key to supporting LGBTQI people with mental health conditions.
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