Friday, 30 November 2012

Pulling Back The Curtain On Mental Health

Pulling Back The Curtain On Mental Health

It is past time to incorporate mental health into our nation’s public health agenda. Public health initiatives have increasingly focused on healthy living, diet, exercise, smoking cessation, and access to preventive health care. Our society usually addresses mental health through media stories of irrational acts of violence carried out by disturbed, mentally-ill individuals.

In the late 1990s, it was documented for the first time that mental disorders were among the leading causes of diminished human productivity and impaired social functioning. Mental disorders were found to contribute as much to a lifetime of disability as cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, and surpassed all cancers and HIV. Five of the 10 leading causes of disability worldwide are recognized as mental health-related problems.

Insurers often discouraged treatment utilization by imposing severe limits on benefits coverage, leading to less access to mental health care. Those seeking mental health treatment have faced higher deductibles and co-pays, limits on annual and lifetime benefits, and a lack of mental health professionals available. It has been estimated that less than one-half of persons with diagnosable conditions are receiving the mental health treatment they need.

The recently passed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act aims to improve access to mental health care by requiring insurers to cover mental health and addiction disorders the same as all other medical conditions. They will also no longer be able to deny coverage of these disorders under a pre-existing condition clause, which was often used in the past to disqualify persons from receiving insurance coverage for their mental health symptoms.
Carrying out screenings for symptoms during childhood and adolescence may result in an opportunity for a mental health professional to intervene before the onset of a full-blown diagnosable mental disorder later in life. Half of adults with diagnosable mental conditions had onsets by age 14 and three-fourths by age 24. Significant delays in the detection of mental disorders from the age of onset when symptoms first appear are commonplace, with some disorders having delays of 8-14 years from onset to diagnosis.

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