Let’s challenge ourselves to keep the focus on mental health beyond Mental Health Month. Lives depend on our attention, work and advocacy on this issue.

“No one ever brings mental illness on themselves. It is a disease of innocence,” Dr. Gerard Clancy, University of Tulsa president and psychiatrist.

In comments to the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce on the 10-year regional mental health plan, Dr. Clancy also said:

  • 140,000 Tulsans live with a mental illness.
  • People living with mental illness die 27 years younger than people without it. 
  • We lose far more people to suicide and overdose than homicide, yet fewer resources are available to prevent these deaths.
  • Our rates of adverse childhood experiences are among the worst in the nation. We need more support and intervention in the schools.

Dr. Clancy outlined our community’s top priorities and stressed putting children’s mental health needs first followed by reducing the life expectancy gap.

Economic cost

The annual cost of untreated mental illness in the seven county area surrounding Tulsa is:

  • $41.6 for treatment – not enough availability for people with out insurance and income to afford care
  • $346.2 million in unrealized earnings due to lost time, productivity, unemployment, disability and early deaths
  • $5.2 million in criminal justice costs because of untreated mental illness

$1 trillion annually: That’s what untreated depression and anxiety costs business internationally.

The solution is easy. For every $1 invested in depression and anxiety treatment, the economy receives a $4 return in better health and ability to work. https://bit.ly/2L8jGP4

Yet, state and federal elected officials continue to inadequately fund treatment. We’ve undergone a decade of cuts to programs and services.

To encourage more mental health and substance abuse funding, find out who your federal and state legislators here: https://www.oklegislature.gov/ and tell them mental health and substance abuse treatment improves the economy and deserves their priority attention.

The problem is not going away without our attention

1 in 5 Americans is affected by mental health conditions. World Health Organization studies show depression and anxiety are increasing. Depression is already the number one cause of disability for working adults. Governments cannot afford to leave treatment poorly funded.

Funding is critical because fewer than one third of adults and one half of children with a diagnosed mental illness receive treatment in each year. The lack of treatment is deadly – 90 percent of people who commit suicide are depressed.

Stigma – Emotional Cost

Even with increased access to affordable care, many people will not seek help. Stigma creates an environment of shame, fear and silence that prevents many people from seeking help and treatment. It’s up to all of us to change the perception of mental illness.

Mental illness is real. People can’t just snap out of it. It is not a character flaw. Let’s challenge these beliefs

How can you help?

  • Watch your language – don’t use words like crazy or identify a person by a diagnosis – a person is living with depression, not a depressed person.
  • Challenge falsehoods – Most mentally ill people are not violent. Violence has other, more relevant, causes. https://jech.bmj.com/content/70/3/223

Share our stories of recovery. This helps people understand:

 “I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety my entire life and had many setbacks, but I am not defined by these disorders.  I am a mother, friend, neighbor, college graduate, employee, and volunteer.  That is how I am defined. Treatment, medication and support have made a difference to me and so many others.”

Encourage people to seek treatment – Recovery is possible

A diagnosis is a starting point for recovery. Our agency is here to help all ages regardless of ability to pay. There is no wrong door. If we aren’t the right place, we will help you find the right treatment. Recovery is a journey that can start today.