News / Health

Lack Of US Support For Mental Health Care Criticized

Lack of US Support for Mental Health Care Criticizedi
X
January 09, 2013 12:46 AM
Most people with mental illness do not commit violent crimes. But acts of mass violence by apparently deranged young men have focused public attention in the United States on how hard it can be to identify and diagnose people with serious mental illnesses, and to get them effective treatment before they do harm to themselves or others. Carol Pearson spoke with a mental health expert and with a family that has sought psychiatric help, about some of the challenges people face in securing good mental health services in the United States.

Lack Of US Support For Mental Health Care Criticized

Carol Pearson
Most people with mental illness do not commit violent crimes. But acts of mass violence by apparently deranged young men have focused public attention in the United States on how hard it can be to identify and diagnose people with serious mental illnesses, and to get them effective treatment before they do harm to themselves or others.

Eric Parks and his mother Ginger Smith have shared a long battle with mental illness. Parks has bi-polar disorder. His first psychotic episode happened when he was 19.  

"I don’t remember much of it. It was just a bad situation. I didn’t feel very good, that’s for sure," Parks said.

"And that was the beginning, the continuation of years of miserable times for Eric and difficult times for the family," Smith said.

Mental illness can prevent people from thinking rationally. Unless they have professional help, people with severe mental illness cannot stick to a schedule, and they stop taking the medications that can keep them grounded.
 
Parks' mother tried but failed to have her son hospitalized.

Many hospitals in the U.S. do not treat psychiatric patients. Those that do, often release patients after brief stays without the support of a mental health professional to ensure a stable transition. Discharged patients sometimes lack the money to buy their medicines or to pay for follow-up psychiatric services.

Parks ended up homeless, starving and without medication.
                   
"I wasn’t willing to receive treatment. I wasn’t at a point where I was willing to admit that I had a mental illness or I had to take any medications or anything like that," Parks said.  

Improvements in the nation's mental health care system are sorely needed, according to Wayne Lindstrom. He heads Mental Health America, an advocacy group.

"We have a mental health system, and we also have a physical medicine system.  And they have not been integrated, typically. And they need to be, desperately, because so many of the problems that children and adults present with  cross broad spectrums (of illnesses, and) aren’t separated from the neck up or down," Lindstrom said.

Parks now lives in a private home where the staff manages his medications and helps him structure his day. But such care is costly, and there are no public or private programs to help pay for it. Most families exhaust their savings. Smith sold her home so she could afford to keep her son there. Parks is now well enough that he has begun looking for a job.  

"I’d like to eventually get back out on my own and maybe have an apartment and live independently," Parks said.                                                                
Parks will need the services of a group home for several more years. Still, Smith points to her son’s accomplishments and bristles at the way people with mental illness are portrayed by public officials and the media.

"If we can shift the perspective to greater understanding and knowledge, and the resources to back it up, we will be taking a great step forward to some of the things that our families live with and many others know very well," Smith said.  

Instead, funding for these programs has been cut sharply in recent years.

You May Like

Pundits Split Over Long-Term US Role in Afghanistan

Security pact remains condition for American presence beyond 2014; deadline criticized More

US Eyes Islamic State Threat

Officials warn that IS could pose a threat to US homeland More

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Moscow says Russian troops crossed into Ukrainian territory by mistake More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocksi
X
George Putic
August 25, 2014 4:00 PM
How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that was eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports on how one band is bringing Yiddish tango to Los Angeles.
Video

Video Peace Returns to Ferguson as Community Tries to Heal

Thousands of people nationwide are expected to attend funeral services Monday in the U.S. Midwestern city of St. Louis, Missouri, for Michael Brown, the unarmed African-American teenager who was fatally shot by a white police officer August 9 in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. The shooting touched off days of violent demonstrations there, resulting in more than 100 arrests. VOA's Chris Simkins reports from Ferguson where the community is trying to move on after weeks of racial tension.
Video

Video Meeting in Minsk May Hinge on Putin Story

The presidents of Russia and Ukraine are expected to meet face-to-face Tuesday in Minsk, along with European leaders, for talks on the situation in Ukraine. Political analysts say the much welcomed dialogue could help bring an end to months of deadly clashes between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian forces in the country's southeast. But much depends on the actions of one man, Russian President Vladimir Putin. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Artists Shun Russia's Profanity Law

Russia in July enacted a law threatening fines for publicly displayed profanity in media, films, literature, music and theater. The restriction, the toughest since the Soviet era, aims to protect the Russian language and culture and has been welcomed by those who say cursing is getting out of control. But many artists reject the move as a patronizing and ineffective act of censorship in line with a string of conservative morality laws. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video British Fighters on Frontline of ISIS Information War

Security services are racing to identify the Islamic State militant who beheaded U.S. journalist James Foley in Syria. The murderer spoke English on camera with a British accent. It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for the Islamic State, also called ISIL or ISIS, alongside thousands of other foreign jihadists. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from the center of the investigation in London.

AppleAndroid