|February 23, 2012|
Mental health care is one of the biggest unmet needs of our time. Nearly one in two people in the U.S. will suffer fromdepression, anxiety disorders or anothermental health ailment at some point in their life, and about one in 17 Americans currently has a serious mental illness. Young people are especially prone to these troubles. Yet millions of people living with these conditions do not receive the care they require. In recent years the health system and state and federal governments have taken steps to right that wrong. Progress has been slow, and budget cuts and legal wrangling have now put many of these measures at risk. Doctors, insurers and politicians need to pick up the pace.
Mental illness strikes without regard for economic class, but the strain is acute for people with low incomes. About one in six adults living at just above the poverty line or lower has severe mental health problems. Without access to affordable treatment, many have a hard time holding down a job yet do not qualify as formally disabled, thus leaving them locked out from insurance coverage. A recent large study in California found that only 32 percent of uninsured residents with mental illnesses received any treatment at all and that less than 12 percent got adequate help.