As the recession continues, unemployment remains at 9.6%, and now government budgets are being slashed. Not surprisingly, mental health services are some of the first to get cut when times are tough.
In a recent New York Times article, the implications of this are starkly illustrated. When mental health care is sparse, folks go unsupported and crises are more likely to emerge. When there is no therapist or peer counselor or clubhouse nearby, or even a psychiatric emergency room or mobile crisis team for urgent matters, family members call 911 for assistance.
Police officers are increasingly trained in how to work more effectively with people in a psychiatric crisis– but let’s face it– cops carry guns and clubs, not exactly therapeutic tools! In the NYT article, one officer admits that it is sometimes cheaper to send the troubled person on a bus out of town, than take him or her to get mental health care.
I fear that this economic downturn will result in increasing criminalization of people with psychiatric illness. When the police are called to intervene with a troubled person, it becomes a criminal matter. It’s easier to make an arrest than to take the person for psychiatric evaluation. And, when people with psychiatric illness become “criminals” stigma is exacerbated and therefore less likely to be funded.
Ugh! I am feeling pretty pessimistic right now, sorry readers.
My next post will be filled with promise.
Jessica Arenella, ISPS-US Membership Chair & Blogger