Opinion: American healthcare fails mentally ill patients

Posted on Mar 28 2018 - 5:55am by Lauren Moses

The healthcare system has failed mentally ill patients. A comparison between French and American statistics of ADHD in children found that 9 percent of American children are diagnosed with the disease, while a mere 0.5 percent of French children are diagnosed.

To treat these children, American doctors give kids psycho-stimulants like Ritalin and Adderall. What do French doctors do? They provide psychotherapy and family counseling.

It seems like doctors in the U.S. are much more willing to hand out potentially harmful drugs to the youngest members of our society, offering quick fixes for illnesses that could sometimes be handled through alternative means.

Though ADHD is not the leading mental disorder in Americans, the comparison points to a scary question: do healthcare professionals choose drugs over therapy to help their patients? The answer to this question is “yes,” and it’s becoming a huge problem.          

In 2013, antidepressants were the most common prescription psychiatric drugs to be filled, with a staggering 12 percent of adults saying they had filled a prescription within the past year. Of adults, 8.3 percent were prescribed sedatives, hypnotics and anti-anxiety drugs, and 1.6 percent were given antipsychotics.

About 18 percent of adults have a mental health condition, and with 17 percent of adults being prescribed a psychiatric drug, it is clear that doctors are treating mental illnesses with quick fixes using drugs rather than the more permanent fixes achieved through psychotherapy.

Healthcare options for these individuals are often scarce and expensive. America’s mental health system boasts a measly D rating.

Exemplary of this is the story of members a family from Connecticut with a child who has autism. They decided to send their son to a therapeutic boarding school. So far, the school has worked wonders for their son, but it costs $49,000 a year.

With the median income in the U.S. sitting between $57,230 and $59,039, our current psychotherapy resources are not affordable for the average American family.

Lloyd Sederer, author of “The Family Guide to Mental Health Care,” says, “It is much cheaper for insurance companies to pay for medication than ongoing psychotherapy, and their lobbies and the money spent on advertisements have slowly infused our cultural thinking about this.”

Because of this, doctors often throw pills at the problem, hoping the patient will take them and end up fine.

The mental healthcare system in America is severely flawed. Instead of working to rehabilitate patients, doctors cripple them further with prescription drugs that have often proven useless without continued use.

It is time that America adopts a safe and effective solution to mental illness.

Lauren Moses is a freshman accounting and political science double major from Dallas.