U.S. Mental Health Care is a Broken System
(September 20, 2013) – The mass shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. on Monday reflects the failings of the U.S. mental health care system. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) joins the nation in reacting with outrage, but we also realize that tragedies like Monday’s will continue to occur unless we make mental health care a public health priority, increasing the accessibility and availability of quality mental health services.
Since 2009 there have been 21 mass shootings and the perpetrators in over half of these were suffering from or suspected to have a serious mental illness like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression. Just like other medical conditions, without proper care mental illnesses can worsen and lead to emergency situations like these. We know what factors contribute to this problem and we can take corrective action.
Specifically, we need to enhance mental health services and implement a new approach by providing care focused on early detection.
Our system of care in the U.S. is inadequate, where individuals with mental illness too often fall through the cracks. The implementation of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act and the anticipated effects of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, provide us with an unprecedented opportunity to improve the quality of and access to mental health care across the country.
This is a complex problem with many different issues to consider, but we have the knowledge, understanding and tools to accomplish this. Now we must find the social and political will to see it through. The APA will remain vigilant in its efforts to hold the government, insurers and providers accountable until every person suffering from a mental illness has access to compassionate, quality treatment. Only then can we hope to avert the next public health tragedy.
The American Psychiatric Association is a national medical specialty society whose physician members specialize in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention, and research of mental illnesses including substance use disorders. Visit the APA at www.psychiatry.org.
Source: American Psychiatric Association News Releases, Sept 2013