With healthcare being debated in Washington, it’s important to remember those that truly rely on others’ support. There are currently zero public mental health facilities in Alabama yet the state legislature was willing to borrow $845 million dollars for four substandard prisons. According to mentalhealthamerica.net, Alabama ranks 46th out of all 50 states and the District of Columbia meaning they have a higher prevalence of mental illness and lower access to proper and affordable care.
With such a horrible rating, one has to ask why Alabama doesn’t invest more into mental health. In the 2018 budget, there is just over $500 million, but we waste more on things special interest groups than investing in mental health care. For example, we spend about $40,000 on the Alabama Dry cleaning Environmental Response Trust Fund, over $715,000 on Board of Dental Scholarship Awards, and over $825,000 on the Alabama Board of Cosmetology and Barbering. That is just shy of $1,600,000 for only three programs out of dozens.
Alabama will invest about 48 million dollars for the Alabama Department of Mental Health, but it will need a larger investment in other areas to combat mental illness effectively. The Alabama Department of Public Health reported that in 2015, 748 people committed suicide in Alabama, which is well above the national average. The way to fix this is by providing affordable resources for people who have mental illnesses and educating young people about how to deal with depression rather than just telling them to ‘suck it up’.
Over ninety of these suicides are from people younger than 25 and with pop culture using suicide as a story piece, it is critical that Alabama reaches out to young people and enforce anti-bullying measures in schools. Schools are vital to student’s mental health whether they realize it or not. These kids are there for hours on end and have issues that adults may think are trivial but to them, they’re monumental. With Netflix’s “13 Reasons Why” popularizing suicide as a form of revenge, it’s even more important to combat these negative aspects of pop culture.
There is also the mental health epidemic among our military veterans. A 2014 National Alliance of Mental Illness report said that nearly a quarter of active duty members showed signs of a mental disorder. Veterans could go to the local VA, but with long wait times and subpar mental health care, it is obvious that having affordable and easily accessible mental health care is crucial for the men and women that serve in the military.
The list of mental illnesses and disorders that plague Alabama is endless and there needs to be a change. There is a lack of compassion when it comes to legislation regarding the mentally ill especially regarding healthcare or prison reform. The best option for Alabama is to focus on providing affordable and accessible mental health care and pushing for a better education about mental illness to students. This would most likely lead to a lower suicide rate and better care for people that need it most.
With healthcare being the hot button issue in D.C., it’s important for people to look after those who can’t look after themselves. People can do this by making sure Congress doesn’t pass anything that would cause the mentally ill to not get the treatment they need. Many prominent Republicans have spoken out against their peer’s healthcare bills including John Kasich, the governor of Ohio, who said that it left the drug addicted and mentally ill out of receiving the affordable care they need.
Mental health shouldn’t be a partisan issue. It should be about taking care of our own, not using them as political fodder. Yes, it will cost a lot of money to save these lives, but Alabama has the funds. Cutting spending in some areas and fixing the prisons we have rather than building four new private ones could potentially provide people with the care that they need and save lives in the end. This isn’t doing the right thing for your respective political party; it’s doing the right thing because it’s right.
If you have any questions or concerns about your or a loved one’s mental health, please check https://www.mentalhealth.gov/ for more information.
National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
About the Author: This article was written by Logan Barrett. Logan is a rising senior at Auburn University majoring in Public Relations with minors in Business and Political Science and an intern at the Reid Law Firm. He may be reached by email at Logan.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s Note: Guest blogs do not necessarily reflect the views of the Reid Law Firm, its staff, or Mr. Reid. The views expressed are solely the author’s point of view.
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