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Mental health conditions: seeking to overcome the stigma

The Social Security disability system has long recognized certain types of mental health conditions as potentially disabling. But as we discussed in our April 10 post, the Western medical worldview has historically been much more willing to recognize physical illnesses than mental ones.

To be sure, there have been attempts to mandate greater recognition of the challenges of mental illness.  For example, a few years ago Congress passed the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act. This law imposed requirements on insurance companies to cover both physical and mental health conditions equally.

And yet the stigma of mental illness remains, both in Southeast Michigan and across the nation. In this post, we will look at the extent of the problem.

By one estimate, there are about 11.4 million adults in the U.S. with serious mental illness. A research study in 2010 concluded that about 40 percent of these people do not receive treatment.

The problem isn't only lack of resources to afford mental health care. Mental illness also often goes  untreated because people are reluctant to seek assistance because of the stigma that mental illness still carries.

The types of conditions involved include such well known conditions as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. 

Advocates for the mentally ill point out how unfair it is that so many people in society still tend to act with disdain toward someone struggling with mental illness. In part, overcoming that disdain involves finding the resources needed to carry on day-to-day life. 

Those resources could come from Social Security disability benefits when eligibility requirements are met. They could also come from employment, although the unemployment for people with mental health issues is very high.

Source: CBS Evening News, "For those with mental illness, stigma cuts deep," Jonathan LaPook, August 11, 2013

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