Serious Mental Illness
“At the root of this dilemma is the way we view mental health in this country. Whether an illness affects your heart, your leg or your brain, it’s still an illness, and there should be no distraction.” - Michelle Obama
The charities in our portfolio focus on serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, bulimia and anorexia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress order, which currently affect approximately 4.2% of the population.
America’s mental health system is in desperate need of repair. Since the 1950s, psychiatric hospitals have been phased out, with community centers intended to take their place. Unfortunately, these centers never materialized, leaving many people with mental illness with nowhere to go. Half of the counties in the United States do not have even one mental health professional. Cost of treatment is expensive, and navigating the system is so complex that many people give up before finding the help that they need. Fear of stigmatization acts as another barrier to getting treatment.
Although they make up a small percentage of our population, people living with a serious mental illness are exceedingly more likely than the general population to be a victim of violence, arrested and incarcerated, homeless, and unemployed. 26% of adults in homeless shelters have a serious mental illness, and the U.S. has the highest rate of death from mental illness when compared to other developed countries. Something has to change.
People with SMI in prison than in state mental hospitals
Homeless people with a SMI
In order to improve the lives of those with a serious mental illness, we must make significant changes to our healthcare, justice, and medical education systems. Affordable, quality, and comprehensive care must be made available to those at any stage of mental illness, not just when they’re a risk to themselves or others. Therapy and medication need to be covered by insurance, and psychiatric beds need to be brought back to our hospitals and institutions. Mental health needs to be integrated into primary care, with primary care doctors and psychologists openly sharing information and making treatment decisions together. Medical schools need to teach future physicians about mental illness symptoms and treatments. Our police officers and judges need to be taught how to spot signs of mental illness, and how to intervene in a way that is safe and beneficial for the individual.
Our charities work on all these issues and more. They provide direct services to those in need (as well as their families) in the form of helplines, screening tools, support groups, and treatment directories. They fight for legislature that will improve our health and justice systems, and provide in-depth resources for local advocates who wish to join their fight. They raise awareness about these diseases and fight stigmas so that those who need help won’t be afraid to ask for it. Serious mental illnesses are often treatable and many suffering from these diseases can go on to lead fulfilling lives, if only we could provide them with the treatment and support that they need.