An estimated 22.1 percent of Americans 18 and older — about one in five adults — suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year.
Latino and Asian-American girls exhibited more depressive symptoms than African-American or Caucasian girls surveyed. African-Americans are 20 percent more likely to report having serious psychological distress than non-Hispanic whites.
In 1949 the United States Congress officially recognized May as Mental Health Awareness Month, encouraging public awareness and public discourse about the prevalence of mental illness. Under the leadership of Representative Grace Napolitano, co-chair of the Congressional Mental Health Caucus, Congress passed a resolution to continue the campaign last month.
“Mental health is an issue we usually do not see, hear, or speak about,” Napolitano said in a statement released earlier this month. “May Mental Health Awareness Month is a time when advocates across the country speak with one voice and break through that stigma.”
Yet, Gov. Tom Corbett has proposed a cut in state aid that would reduce the amount of funding for mental health support.
The governor’s proposed budget has led to a lawsuit being filed by the Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania, arguing that Corbett’s proposal violates federal law.
“This ill-advised attempt to balance Pennsylvania’s budget on the backs of people with mental illness and disabilities is a recipe for social and economic disaster,” said Debbie Plotnick, director of advocacy, Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania.
“We serve over 300 people in Delaware County,” said Frank Bartoli, executive director of the Arc of Delaware County. “We’re concerned for the organizations and individuals that receive our support.”
Bartoli’s concern is for people like recovering drug addict, Mary, who utilized public supported resources to improve her quality of life. Mary’s last name is being withheld.
“With Horizon House’s encouragement, I have had many successes,” Mary said about the agency.
Based in Philadelphia, with a Delaware County office in Swarthmore, Horizon House is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. In partnership with the Wellness Alliance, the Horizon House helps people like Mary to establish or re-establish themselves in their community, develop personal support networks, and improve their overall quality of life.
Mental health treatment is often underutilized, with the afflicted reluctant to seek treatment services and insurers averse to paying for them. Mental illness is the leading cause of disability in the nation, costs businesses and the economy over $193 billion dollar per year in lost earnings and if untreated, mental illness is a leading cause of absenteeism and lost productivity in the workplace.
Ensuring a successful 2012 Mental Health Awareness Month, advocates are encouraging early diagnosis, enrollment in treatment programs and continued public policy support for those with mental and intellectual disabilities.
“I’d like to defend the rights of persons challenged with mental and physical disabilities who cannot afford legal services,” Mary said. “I am back on my feet and ready to work.”
For more information on mental health services visit the Arc of Delaware County, www.thearcofdelco.org.