(Drawing I did that reminds me of the look of depression)
I’ve been submitting these general letters, articles, and pitches to Vice, Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, Washington Post, The NY Times, Litro Magazine, The Hickory Daily Record, The Mighty, The Atlantic, The Odyssey, and O.N.E:
Letter to the Editor:
Awareness of the various issues in America today is something you often shine light on, and in a world of conflict and discrimination you succeed in bringing awareness to topics that can make people uncomfortable to pay attention to. One such topic, however, is rarely covered by publications; mental health policy improvement.
Today, America is the lowest ranked developed country regarding mental health care, and it is making little progress towards the rankings of its peers. U.S. News reports a lack of service provisions and insufficient insurance provisions for the mentally ill, despite improvements made since the 1950s. Psychiatrists have declined 6% since 2011, which is not surprising; psychiatrists are some of the lowest paid health professionals.
There are several areas which have policies the United States can implement if we simply bring awareness to them. Trieste, a region in Italy, is known for providing care in the community and destigmatising mental illness. The facilities are basically like community centers, where families can feel connected with each other and help to create a support system.
Places like the U.K. are also making large investments in mental health care, implementing wait times for eating disorders and other illnesses. Internationally, the United States is criticized for its failure to invest in health care, which is a major problem in all areas. We could all benefit from bringing more awareness to this issue, and to legislation.
I learned on a tour of my local prison in Newton, NC that prisoners stay in a dark room surrounded by security and their cells. These men get an hour outside in the small, cement paved court every two or three weeks. Unsurprisingly, a statistic thrown out on the guided tour shows that around ten percent of prisoners should be in an inpatient facility, not in jail.
America has the highest incarceration rate in the world, and the highest percentage of mentally ill residing in prisons. This is not the only problem with America’s mental health system: another high percentage of the mentally ill are homeless, and the country is 37th in health care. This ranks the country among Slovenia and Costa Rica, making it the lowest ranked developed country in the world. To move up to the ranks of fellow developed nations, America needs to model those with superior mental health care models.
Trieste, a region of Italy, is a shining example of community based reformed care that relies on the assistance and understanding of a community, and various forms of therapy. Hospitalization is a last resort in this concept, with minimal beds available, and even then those hospitalized can stay unisolated from their family and friends. The facilities feel friendly and inviting, which normalizes the concept. Programs include group activities, daytime facilities, home visits, and job training.
A larger policy that would be easier to follow is that of the U.K., which is ranked number one in the world for mental health. The U.K.’s former Prime Minister David Cameron proposed a plan in January of this year which will invest almost a billion pounds into U.K.’s mental health system. This will include investment into pre and post-natal care, target wait times for adolescents suffering from eating disorders and psychosis, and implementation of 24 hour community based care.
Many countries have mental health systems that the U.S. can model to create a better system for their mentally ill. By being community based and more organized, the United States can stop people from slipping through the cracks and improve on several other ranking points as well. With Donald Trump moving into office, it is time to act now, and fast.
I would like to write about America’s mental health policy fallacies, and which countries we can model to improve it. The countries and areas I think are particularly relevant are the U.K., Trieste, Scandinavia, and Germany. My contact would most likely be Allen Frances, since I have used several of his articles in my research.
This topic is timely because of the new presidential administration- if Trump is replacing Obamacare, we should work hard to make the voice of mental health policy heard. I should be the one to write about it because I have been researching mental health policy for two years and have written a twenty-page research paper on the topic. I have also been published in several newspapers. My paper is attached below, as well as an article I did for the British Marque.
Fingers Crossed I will get published. Message me for comments, questions, or critiques!