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The Mental Health System In America

Updated on April 20, 2015

The Mental Health System is a Failure

There is a problem with our mental health system in the United States. It is very clear and there is nothing being done about it. From personal experience I have seen the system fail time and time again. If you read any newspaper in the country you can read about the failures just about every single day. Unfortunately, I don’t have a solution for this. I just have too many examples of it gone wrong. And it is hurting our children and young adults.

According to top officials of ten percent of our states, no child receives adequate mental health care. Not one child. Yes, this is only ten percent of the states who have officials that say this. But even those states that do have adequate mental health care say that they also have long waiting lists for children seeking those services. So, really, they don’t have adequate care, either.

The System Failed Her


Example of the Mental Health System Failure

A recent case came to light about a father who was sentenced to jail for five years for starving his teenage daughter. He had been keeping her locked in the basement, as well. Before you jump on the bandwagon and say what a horrible person he is, you need to hear some more of the details.

It seems that this young girl had mental health and behavioral issues for quite some time – possibly beginning in her very early childhood. Her mother couldn’t deal with her issues – after trying repeatedly to get assistance for her child. She finally had enough and sent her daughter to live with her father. The father also tried several times to get assistance with his daughter. Because he was an over the road truck driver, he didn’t have to deal with her daily, but his new wife did. At one point, this father even contacted child protective services and tried to have his daughter placed in a foster home – hoping she would get the help she needed. It didn’t happen. The father stated that it dealing with all of her issues was like “bailing water out of a sinking boat with his bare hands.” The girl stayed in her father’s home with her stepmother. When her stepmother finally had enough, she began locking the girl in the basement to protect the rest of the family and to keep the girl safe. Unfortunately, the stepmother went way too far, and then began refusing the girl food. When the girl somehow escaped from her situation, she was down to just 68 pounds.

You hear horror stories like this all the time. You realize that this case was not handled correctly – the stepmother definitely stepped over the line, but she was at her rope’s end. She was getting no help with this child. The child was not getting the help she needed and suffered more than she should have. If there was adequate mental health care, this might not have happened.

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Mental Health Care Failure Gets Personal

My niece and my daughter were molested by their grandfather – my stepfather. It was reported and police stepped in and took over the case – as they should have. The rest of our family couldn’t believe that he was doing these horrendous things to these girls and chose to believe that they were lying about it. Even though it happened at different times, and the two girls never spoke to each other about the incident, the rest of the family just assumed they were making it up. Even after they were told there were witnesses to the abuse, the rest of the family chose to shame the girls and refused to talk to them and their parents because they were “ruining the family name!” Both girls were ostracized. Both were “disowned” by the family. Because of this, both – at different times without the knowledge of the other girl – attempted suicide. Both were nearly successful. Both were taken to the hospital via ambulance. Both were then sent to the “behavior” hospital to get further evaluated. Both were then sent on to a behavioral health facility. You would think that this was a good thing for them both.

Instead, these girls were placed in rooms with various people their own age. These other people were there for a variety of reasons. One had abused drugs and been put there for rehabilitation. She had already been there several weeks with no success. One had tried to murder his mother – because mom wouldn’t buy him a new gaming system. One was schizophrenic and they were trying to find the right medications for him. Then there was my daughter who was there because she tried to take her own life. There were so many different mental health issues just in the one hallway we were in – and yet all of them were being treated exactly the same. Their days consisted of breakfast, group therapy, individual therapy, recreation time, medication and then bedtime at nine o’clock in the evening. I thought this was strange – but found out that this was normal. I found out how normal when my niece was there a few months later and she was placed with the same mix of people and received the exact same treatment.

After each attempt on their lives, my daughter and niece were then released after two or three days of “intensive” treatment. Then they were set up with a counselor who had more experience with adult issues such as marriage and divorce and very little training in suicidal teens. Both were put on different medications, neither medication worked and both attempted to take their lives again – this time using the prescription medication they had been given to solve their problems.

The Mental Health System Has Failed Them, Too.


The Mental Health System In Our Schools

As a special education teacher, I deal with behavioral and emotional issues in children on a daily basis. These children come from all walks of life – from every race, culture and socio-economic status. The rich, the poor, the black, white, Asian, Hispanic and everything in between. And they all have one thing in common – inadequate mental health care.

One child watched his father murdered. One little girl and her sister were repeatedly sexually assaulted. Another was born to a mother who had used drugs during her pregnancy. And still another had been placed in foster care when his mother left him as a newborn in the hospital. And then there are the children with “normal” families. Families that have both a mother and a father living in the home. Families who are making a good living and doing the best they can to care for their children. And all of those little ones who just fall in the cracks – those children whose parents are doing the best that they can but still have to leave their children wanting for basic necessities.

All of these children have different mental health issues. I do what I can to help them – but I am a teacher. I am not a trained counselor or social worker. We have both counselors and social workers employed at our school – but both are trained to deal with special education issues such as individual education plans and getting social histories of children who may enter special education. They are not trained on how to deal with emotional, behavioral or mental health issues in the schools.

In Conclusion, We Need To Fix the System

And all of these children – and their parents – are suffering. They are not being treated in the best ways. They are not being given the services they so desperately need. Because in most cases, the services they need just don’t exist.

Again, I don’t know the answer to this problem. But we must find an answer. Our children need us to find an answer. Our children deserve the answer. And the sooner we find an answer, the better off this country of ours will be.

They Deserve A Better Future



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    • justateacher profile image

      LaDena Campbell 3 years ago from Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Near Oz...

      thank you all for your wonderful comments!

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 3 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      These horrific examples certainly give voice to our mental health systems that fail more than help. Excellent hub, and one that should be a “must read” for all of us.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 3 years ago from Shelton

      the example you mention are examples of what we don't see day to day as day to day.. so we don't put too much stock in the cuts.. what do we know of mental health unless is touches us directly..a very informative hub justateacher

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 3 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      I agree. It's a complicated problem, or rather a complex of complicated problems. Google, for instance, on: "rapid rehousing" mental OR behavioral. Or Google on: bipolar overdiagnosis money. Or Google on: deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill consequences OR happened. Or Google on: Moscow Idaho police officer murdered mental illness help.

      As for solutions, my guess is that the first step is to care and the second step is to get together with others who care. I haven't gotten there yet, so I don't know what the third step is. There is a NAMI chapter in my town.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      From local governments to federal governments, social services are cut in the budgets whenever money needs to be saved. These horrible examples that you mention are a natural by-product of those budget cuts. Until the needs of the people are given priority nothing will change. Thank you for raising awareness about this.