Mental Health Day

“Mental health is a universal human right.”

October 10th was Mental Health Day.

ALL individuals DESERVE to experience the best possible mental health, just as ALL individuals DESERVE to experience the best possible physical health.

Many people see their Primary Care Physician annually for a physical. In my experience, there is some screening of my mental health during these visits, however it’s minimal AND my physician knows my history and experiences. It boggles my mind.

What if everyone had a therapist that they met with for an “annual physical” along with other routine mental health screening, prevention, and care just like many do with their physical health – blood work, routine screenings, etc.

I’m not knocking Primary Care Physicians; they provide many valuable services and I love mine! I have been seeing her since I graduated to an “adult doctor” from my pediatrician!

The issue is that in general, Primary Care Physicians don’t receive the necessary training to truly dig into our mental health like they can with our physical health. In recent years, there has been so much more awareness and focus brought to the significance of mental health, for which I am extremely grateful. Now I believe that it’s time to take greater steps. It’s time that health insurances provide more coverage for mental health care, incentives for receiving it and making it accessible to all. It’s time for more workplaces to achieve greater awareness, education and understanding along with accommodations.

Currently in my city, it can be tremendously difficult to find a therapist, let alone one that you feel safe with and takes your insurance. If you’re looking for someone to see a minor, the availability is much lower.

We NEED more therapists, and it NEEDS to be easier for ALL people to understand the importance of and access care.

There have been so many incentives for teachers and those choosing to go into the profession to try and combat the teacher shortage. That has been done because as a collective, most U.S. citizens value education and are well acquainted with it. Education’s existence is a given and there is a familiarity with it.

My vision is that mental health care would exist like education – individuals are familiar with it, most people have experienced it in depth, and it is valued as one of the top priorities of our country. How different things would be if this paradigm shift occurred!

I was introduced to therapy as a young child. I attended my first therapy session in my late teens. I have seen many different therapists since then. I consider myself extremely lucky and blessed to have a mother who led me to therapy. I also acknowledge the vast privilege that I enjoy in being able to access mental health care and good care (for the most part) at that.

I have been thinking a lot about the word “disability”, how it is most used in American society, what is considered a disability, prevention, treatment, and accommodations.

I recently attended a lecture by Dr. Alan Jette titled “Disability: An Unrecognized Public Health Epidemic”. Dr. Jette is advocating for a public health campaign launched in the U.S similar to the anti-tobacco/smoking campaign that was huge in the 1980s and 1990s (“The Olden Days” as my kids would say).

For goodness sake, some buildings still are not accessible to physically handicapped individuals.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects people with disabilities from discrimination. states that “Disability rights are civil rights. From voting to parking, the ADA is a law that protects people with disabilities in many areas of public life.”

The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that about 44 million adults (over age 18) in the U.S. experienced a mental health condition during the past year. That’s about 18.5% of the U.S. population.

Yes, it is paramount that individuals with ALL disabilities be protected from discrimination. Those with mental health disabilities need consistent, comprehensive, competent, and compassionate care.

When I was discharged after my 2-week mental health hospitalization 9 years ago, I was told to apply for disability because it was highly probable that I would not be able to work. I followed the directions of “someone who knew more than me” because it seemed true. Meanwhile, I was counting pennies as a single mother. Even if I had been approved to receive disability benefits, I wouldn’t have been able to survive financially.

I continued to claw my way from one step of my healing to the next. It wasn’t easy, however I had so many resources that others only wish for.

While in the hospital, I met many individuals who were there regularly. They were admitted at a particularly low point, improved to a place where they were deemed ready for discharge. Their freedom was short-lived as they would return in the future because they didn’t have what they needed to not fall down the black hole again.

I was one of the lucky ones. I was one of the privileged ones.

There is not a chance that I would be living the life I am without the mental health care that I have received over the past 9 years. I am living a life that was impossible for me back then.

Had I not been blessed to find people who believed that “mental health is a universal human right”, I can’t even imagine where I would be today.