Mental Health – is America successful?

We Americans like to think of ourselves as successful. That sounds good and means we do well as defined by some pretty specific modern information age standards. So that makes us all subject to these standards of success in our society now, and for many its simply being able to get into the military, going to college, having children or getting a decent job? What if you are a young person who is over 21 and looking for a job today? And what if you also have a mental illness and need medication or treatment? How can you ever become a success.

That is what Jared Loughner faces and that is what many families are dealing with in their own homes. A child that has some problems becomes seriously debilitated because college, the workplace or the military don’t give the support they have had keeping them in balance. Some of our children have committed suicide or become serious addicts and many more simply live on the fringes with fewer and fewer friends and contacts. Often the diagnosis of the more serious mental health condition is not timely so treatment is delayed by years leaving the individual at risk of further harm. The young adult often falls into despair and their condition deteriorates leaving them unable to participate in day to day life.

Do many or more young people suffering this way buy a dangerous weapon and commit mass murder? No, this is rare and tragic.  But many of the young people are lost either because they become permanently psychotic or can not function unless extremely medicated.  So we need must start helping  people before they seriously harm themselves or others.  Psychiatry and mental health professionals must help us advocate for multiple therapeutic measures for the best mental health outcomes.

Please don’t blame Jared’s parents. There is a huge amount of pressure to keep the family members at home and take care of them so they don’t get abused by the state or go homeless. That makes home life difficult and unpleasant and family members need support and respite from these duties.  Jared is also legally and adult and his parents may have been afraid of him or completely in denial about his disease.  Either way – having a mentally ill adult child living at home is difficult if near impossible. I’m sure they are heart-broken for the victims.

We have to stop being such a superficial society and start making adequate provisions for our mental health care system. As a culture we must invest in the best medical, mental and food systems for the entire population. Allowing the current system of mental health care to continue is clearly is irresponsible – because it does not meet the needs of America.  Our children deserve better, if we can prevent a major psychotic break leading to murder or suicide it would be worth any cost.

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