Good afternoon, sunshynes! Today, it has been laid on my heart (and mind) to talk about mental healthcare. By the way, Happy Fourth of July! It is INDEPENDENCE DAY here in the United States. It has been a long 242 years since the USA was declared independent from Great Britain. Now, for some reason, Independence Day has led me to want to write on the state of mental health care in the US. Now I was blessed to be born in the grand ol’ state of Oklahoma – land of the most fireworks injuries and highest incarceration rate for women!!! Oh, and probably the land of the worst mental healthcare in the civilized world!!!! (That is not a fact; just throwing that opinion out there.)
What would possess someone to want to be a mental healthcare worker in Oklahoma – the state that makes deep cuts to the mental healthcare budget any chance it gets?? Honestly, I couldn’t give you a logical reason as to why I decided this was for me. I can’t even tell you how many times I have lied awake at night, wondering if I would have to uproot my family to find decent work in my chosen field. I can’t tell you how many times I have cursed myself for my calling. I’ve scraped every inch of my mind trying to find the reason behind my drive toward a life devoted to mental health advocacy. But it’s kind of like similar to my college degrees: what possessed me to get degrees in English and psychology? Literally, what demon entered my soul and convinced me to get degrees in not one, but TWO, of the lowest paying, highest rate of unemployment, and most disregarded fields by the Oklahoma government? Ain’t that swell? I can counsel people and correct their grammar – all while living in a cardboard box down by the river.
Disclaimer: Please don’t point out typos or whatever to me. Most of them are purposeful. Some are just because I don’t care. It’s nice to sit down and write informal articles for the first time in my life. I could recite my entire Advanced Grammar textbook aloud. It is absolutely mesmerizing to actually be able to talk in second person. I cannot even tell you how much easier my life is. Dr. Bruce, if you read this, just know that I am very aware that I should be using dashes instead of hyphens in all those places, but this website doesn’t accept the keyboard shortcut for a dash. I could probably type it into Microsoft Word and copy and paste every time I needed a dash, but we both know I use way too many dashes for that to even be a viable option.
Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, America, land of the free and home of literally awful healthcare policy. I want to tell you a story. . . About two years ago, I was in my Intro to Counseling class, and we were discussing how difficult it is to find help for an endangered patient. My professor (also a practicing counselor) was telling us the basics about a patient of hers. She was a minor with suicidal ideation and had admitted to the counselor that she was going to attempt to commit suicide. Side note: When a counselor, police officer, teacher, etc., has reason to suspect that a person is an immediate danger to themselves or others, they have to report it. That person is then supposed to be committed for evaluation for 72 (?) hours. So, my professor had a CHILD telling her she wanted to kill herself and she could not find a bed for this girl anywhere in Oklahoma. It took about four days to finally get this girl a bed in a mental facility to be evaluation, and that facility was about six hours away in Texas. Not only did this child’s parents and my professor have to play the role that our state psychiatrists should be playing, but they also had to drive out-of-state to get their child the help she needed.
Now that is outrageous. Here are some more outrageous facts (2017 State of Mental Health in America – Access to Care Data):
- Seventeen percent of adults with a diagnosed mental health disorder are still uninsured in the US.
- About 56 percent of adults with mental illness received no past year treatment in the United States, and, for those that did seek treatment, 1/5th continued to report unmet treatment needs.
- About 58% of Oklahomans with a mental illness received no treatment in 2017. That is over half. Almost 6/10 times, a mentally-ill Oklahoman went completely untreated by a mental health professional. More often than not, Oklahomans go untreated. We aren’t even good enough to get this number below half??
- Only 16% of children with Major Depressive Disorder received consistent treatment in Oklahoma!!!
- Oh, and Oklahoma has the highest prevalence of children that lack mental healthcare.
SO, I’m not sure why I want to be a counselor in a state that CLEARLY does not value the mental health of its constituents, but I do. I want it more than anything. I want to be that counselor that makes a difference in the lives of others – the counselor that overemphasizes self-love and healthy relationships. I want to help others, but this is what counselors are up against. Vote them out. Vote out the individuals that believe mental healthcare is the first budget cut to make. I’m going to provide the best in mental healthcare, but I genuinely hope I don’t have to do it out of a cardboard box. I genuinely hope that my clients, especially children, don’t have to be moved six hours away to be given the help they deserve. But, hey, Happy Independence Day.