Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Why can't we find mental health help??
It turns out that there was a patient in the office who was in desperate need of psychiatric care and was having a problem getting an appointment to see any doctors or therapists. The nurse wanted to know what psychiatrist I saw, if I liked her, and if it was easy to get an appointment in her office.
Now, I have a good relationship with everyone in my OB's office, mainly because when I was pregnant this past year I called them on average, oh, a million times a week. Sadly, at one point, the nurses knew my phone number when it came up on caller ID and knew to answer if it was me. They were aware of my mental health problems and my struggle to find help, so I'm not shocked they called me to see if I could recommend someone for their patient.
That being said, how sad is it that the doctor's office was calling me? I'd like to think I'm something of an expert -- on pretty much everything, really -- but the reality is I'm just a girl (cue Gwen Stefani) who has had mental health problems. What does it say about the state of our mental health care system when someone is calling me for guidance? It's terrifying, frankly.
Doing a little research on psychiatric care in this country reveals some really scary statistics. A 2006 study in North Carolina, conducted in part by Duke University, showed that there was 1 psychiatrist for every 10,000 people in the state. It also found that many patients' insurance was lacking when it came to mental health care, which made it harder for them to find help. (Source: "Report Finds Limited Number of Psychiatrists Statewide")
A blog called "Health and Medical News and Resources" states that there is a shortage of 45,000 psychiatrists in the United States. If I was teaching, I don't know if I'd let a student use this blog as a credible source, but I did find the statistic repeated on a page on medscape.com. Apparently it comes from a study with...a lot of impressive looking references. The medscape.com page also has an interesting interview with several psychiatrists about the state of the mental health system in the country.
Unfortunately, the lack of care isn't just frustrating -- it has serious ramifications. For example, in the same interview, one of the psychiatrists state that studies show 16% of prisoners have some form of mental illness (you may have to have a medscape.com account to see this page). These are people who, if given proper mental health care, would likely not be in prison, but in a psychiatric facility or treated to the point they can live productive lives.
I could go on and on -- I haven't even mentioned the epidemic of mental illness among the homeless -- but I'll leave it at that for now. I also would be interested in looking up statistics on Ohio in particular, but I'll do that in another post.
In summation, the statistics are staggering.
It's actually pretty depressing.
I think I'll go knit.