May is National Mental Health Awareness Month. This is the result of a proclamation made by the President in 2013 to recognize the needs of those with mental illness and to reduce the stigma of mental illness in America.
Millions of Americans live with a mental health condition. Indeed, as of July 2013, the Center of Disease Control and Prevention reported there are 18.8 million Americans affected by depressive disorders. Depression not only affects the sufferer, but also many people around them. Too many people are suffering silently with depression and other mental health conditions despite major efforts to understand the conditions and educate society about them.
Current estimates are that less than half of all adults with mental health conditions receive treatment. This is one of the concerns that spurred efforts to create The Affordable Care Act.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has enabled the government to extend equal protection and insurance coverage to those with mental health conditions and substance use disorder – an estimated 60 million citizens. It has also prevented insurers from denying coverage or overcharging patients as a result of mental health conditions, such as depression or substance abuse. The ACA has far exceeded the benefit of the Mental Health Parity Act which preceded it. In addition, the ACA requires health insurance plans to cover suggested preventive services, such as depression screening and behavior assessments.
The National Mental Health Awareness Month is a time to de-stigmatize mental illness. We don’t criticize those in wheelchairs or tell them to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. So why do we criticize and disparage those with depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia? Usually it is from a lack of understanding.