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The real cost of caring for the mentally ill

Updated on February 9, 2012

Cost of care for the mentally ill


The cost of caring for the mentally ill varies by the society

There are people who are considered mentally ill in every society on earth. In different area’s worldwide their treatment is handled in different ways. In each case the society they live in choose how they will be treated. In each case also there is a cost to their society. It has been this way since the first recorded history.

Can this percentage be used for our society?

Years of my life were spent years working with the developmentally disabled (DD), among them (from memory) about 10 % were dual diagnosis. This 10 % were considered both developmentally disabled and mentally ill(MI). The small groups worked with were from 50 people facilities to ones that warehoused 1170 or more. One wonders if these numbers can be turned at least percentage wise to the general population. In most cases the higher functioning are now living "normal" lives. This includes those with both diagnosis's

The people who love those considered mentally ill make a difference

Part of my time now is spent working with children diagnosed with ADHD. As much as possible the parents try to keep these children off medication. At this time not a single child is receiving disability and it is hoped they will never need it. Everything is tried, diet, exercise, routine, counseling, and anything else we come across. At the moment the children running 50% being treated without medication. Without medication, the other 50 % can't function "normally". Those on medication are mostly for sleep issues.

The current cost to society for these who are considered mentally ill

We don't know many adults who can survive on two hours of sleep in a 24 hour period, must less any child. With more sleep they do better in every area. At their current age they are considered mentally ill. The current cost to society is their disruptive behavior causes other children learning time in their classes while their teacher is dealing with disruptive behaviors. All of the parents have been told their children will “grow out of it”. A sad truth is those who are medicated as a child often end up medicated for life. Believe me if there is a cure the mothers would love to hear about it.

What we learn from history

Many of the geniuses throughout history would be diagnosed with mental illness if they were alive today. Their way of functioning showed several groups of behaviors we now consider "mental illnesses". Most went days without sleep. This is considered Manic/depressive behavior. They became so focused on what they were doing all else fell away. This would be considered compulsive/obsessive behavior. Many went days without eating this would be considered anorexic behavior. These things hold true for many people who have very high IQ's even today. Does this mean everyone who has a high IQ and exhibit these kinds of behaviors are Mentally Ill?

Mental illness is some cases is cause and effect

It is my belief also that certain types of abuse to children lead to mental illnesses later in life. This belief comes from years of working with people who suffered this type of abuse. There is no way for a child to cope with certain things which happen to them both physically and mentally. The outcome of these types of abuse cause those who suffered them major problems throughout what should be their highest earning years. These problems include suicide, suicide attempts, bulimia, and anorexia. People who suffer any of these are considered to have mental illnesses. Most of those who survive at some point in their lives are considered cured

The real cost of mental illness

Most of the people considered mentally ill can either be “maintained medically“ or "cured". This costs the people in any society time and money, some people say shouldn't be spent. Numbers are available but no one here has access to them. It is common knowledge that in many cases the federal, and state governments pick up bills in excess of $100,000 dollars per client. Today it costs less to keep someone in prison than "cure" someone diagnosed with a "mental illness". This is based on the fact that warehousing is cheaper than curing each individual. Warehousing is something every state did with the Developmentally disabled before the American society cried out for a change. In many cases it was found more cost effective to label a person disabled and support them instead of "curing" them.


Knowledge gained about my Indian heritage shows that mental illness existed even before the white man arrived in America. There was a cost to every tribal society. That cost was tears. For those who suffered no cure was available so some were talked into taking their own lives. Others were thrown out of tribes to survive, or not, alone. Along with the aged and physically afflicted others were left behind to die. Is today's society ready to return to this way of thinking? Is it better instead to continue to pay the real cost for caring for the mentally ill in our society?

What will your choice be

Should any first world society return to the past with treatment for the mentally ill?

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    • wheelinallover profile imageAUTHOR

      Dennis Thorgesen 

      8 years ago from Beatrice, Nebraska U.S.

      In Ameria life seems to be a catch 22. Some people are helped and others are not. Anyone who reaches the mental age of 12 can be treated as an adult. If they disobey the law of the land chances are they will end up in Jail or Prison.

      They may not even realize that what they are doing is against the law. Not in the sense a functioning adult would. At the age of 12 how well do your children do in an adult world.

      They are just out of grade school and not expected to make adult decisions. At a mental age 12 at any physical age those in this category can barely cope. In most cases is it simple to talk them into getting in trouble with the law.

      In most cases children if they are taken from their parents end up being moved from foster home to foster home because the foster parents can't handle them. In almost every case they are still better off than if they were with their parents.

    • ishwaryaa22 profile image

      Ishwaryaa Dhandapani 

      8 years ago from Chennai, India

      A thought-provoking hub! Both the Government and society should take immediate action and address these issues seriously. The mentally-affected should not be jailed and should be given good care and preferably paying the costs of caring for them. Thank you for writing and sharing this delicate issue with us. Shared.

    • wheelinallover profile imageAUTHOR

      Dennis Thorgesen 

      9 years ago from Beatrice, Nebraska U.S.

      L.L.Woodard the real cost is and always been human lives. The costs are three fold, in wasted lives, those who care for them, and those who don't survive. In my life I have worked in some way with all three groups. The hardest of these was helping those who lost their child to mental illness.

      I work with numbers daily, and understand after a while to some people numbers equal numb. It seems though to those who deal with the people suffering this never happens.

    • L.L. Woodard profile image

      L.L. Woodard 

      9 years ago from Oklahoma City

      A thought-provoking hub here, to be sure. Just what is needed to get people thinking about an important aspect of health care. Numbers tell stories, but they are so cut and dry that readers often don't associate actual human beings with the numbers.

      Voted up and SHARED.

    • wheelinallover profile imageAUTHOR

      Dennis Thorgesen 

      9 years ago from Beatrice, Nebraska U.S.

      Truthfornow With all the government cutbacks there is a feeling there are many who don't care about the cost of caring for those who need help with mental problems. I see more and more the government leaning towards warehousing again only this time they are using the prison system.

      Having worked towards the end of the warehousing era I saw many antisocial behaviors which would put a "normal" person in prison. These behaviors are now putting people who could have been helped using other methods exactly there.

    • wheelinallover profile imageAUTHOR

      Dennis Thorgesen 

      9 years ago from Beatrice, Nebraska U.S.

      Brett.Tesol this was a hard article to write. At some point in life most people could use some kind of help. This to me, doesn't mean a person is mentally ill. They just don't have the mechanism to cope with certain things which happen in their lives.

      Sorry to say all the children I have dealt with have at least one side of the family who have a history of mental illness. As I said in the article all attempts are being made to treat without medication. The ones who can't sleep are being medicated because without it they sleep less than the five hours I average a night.

      In the past I have worked with children who could have been "normal" if the parents had realized soon enough they had food allergies. PKU, which is an allergy to foods which contain grains.

      Many were brain damaged by parents doing illegal drugs. Some were forceps babies, and others had Down's syndrome. A few lacked oxygen to the brain for too long, and others were so physically deformed they just became classed as Developmentally Disabled or Mentally Ill, so society wouldn't have to look at them.

      Granted most those I worked with were during or just after "the change" from warehousing to treatment. In my life time I have seen treatment and training make a difference in so many lives I would never want to see things return to what they were.

    • truthfornow profile image

      Marie Hurt 

      9 years ago from New Orleans, LA

      I think we definitely need to care for and invest in mental health. I live in a city where virtually all mental health services have been cut. As a result, there are many in prison who shouldn't be and too many who need care. I think your article is on a very important topic, and I hope we find ways and means to give people the care they need.

    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett C 

      9 years ago from Asia

      This is such a tricky subject, as there is no black and white to it. Many children that are considered mentally ill, would not have been this way with correct care and nutrition.

      However, many children and adults that are classed as mentally ill are in fact just different. It always seems that if you are very good in one aspect, you will be equally bad in another. For a lot of these people, they are actually very intelligent or creative (sometimes both), but rarely get the chance to express or challenge themselves, in turn causing disruptive behavior. It is not always about curing, sometimes it is about supporting the good that is in people.

      Ah, that's my two cents lol. Anyways, SOCIALLY SHARED, up and interesting.

    • wheelinallover profile imageAUTHOR

      Dennis Thorgesen 

      9 years ago from Beatrice, Nebraska U.S.

      My spell checker won't give me a clue. The misspelled words must be just the wrong word for the sentence. Like most people for whom English is not the first language I have a tendency to try to correct errors when brought to my attention.

      I believe I am more into prevent-ability than cures. Preventive measures don't always work. My grandmother was very cautious about what she put in her body and still ended up with Breast cancer. I do believe she survived 11 years because she kept using her preventive measures.

      There are very few ways to prevent mental illness. Even those raised in a bubble can have problems. If you have a cure for ADHD I would love to hear about it. I personally know many children who could benefit.

    • MPG Narratives profile image

      Maria Giunta 

      9 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      English as a third language, then I am impressed at how well you write. Had I known that I wouldn't have bothered to mention it. Honestly, the comment was just an aside, your hub was written well enough to get your point across.

      As for cures for mental illness and other major diseases of course governments don't want cures because as True Cures mentioned, economies would suffer. A sad state of affairs.

    • True Cures profile image

      True Cures 

      9 years ago from Payette Idaho

      It's a sad sorry world we have created for ourselves. I have the answers for curing mental illness but I don't have the answers for the crushed economy that will result from curing mental illness.

      Curing cancer is very simple inexpensive and it requires no modern technology but will completely destroy the economy and ruin our quality of life because it will lead to over population.

      So all that is left is for each individual to choose what they believe is the lessor of two evils. Do you put the personal health of yourselves or loved ones above the economy and current quality of life or do you continue to convince yourself that what we have to day is the best human kind can offer?

      Wheel, don't you worry about spelling errors or grammar errors, the greatest minds never get caught up in stuff so trivial as correct spelling and grammar. However cookie cutter perfect grammar hubs do well with the mindless consumers because they are designed to massage egos not for introducing factual information.

    • wheelinallover profile imageAUTHOR

      Dennis Thorgesen 

      9 years ago from Beatrice, Nebraska U.S.

      MPG I blame the spelling errors on a non working spell checker. The grammar errors are all mine. When English is a third language grammar errors have a tendency to occur.If you would be kind enough to let me know what the errors are I will be happy to repair them.

      I would like to say I have the answers, I don't. Working with ADHD children is a challenge and I love challenges. Years spend working with the Developmentally Disabled bears this out.

      The questions were put out for educational purposes. The majority of people have already decided how they feel about this issue. Those who haven't were given options.

    • MPG Narratives profile image

      Maria Giunta 

      9 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      This is a very well written hub wheelinallover (although there are a few spelling/grammar errors you may want to fix, sorry just an aside comment).

      Mental illness does cost society, as does any health issue. Would the Governments consider stopping funding for cancer cures? I don't think so. The same should apply for mental illnesses, there is no way we should ever go back to methods of 50+ years ago.

      Awareness of mental illness and research for cures (or maintenance programs) is a good thing and should be encouraged.

    • wheelinallover profile imageAUTHOR

      Dennis Thorgesen 

      9 years ago from Beatrice, Nebraska U.S.

      Ms doolittle, It appears my (numbers) were off I had no idea 1 in 4 would be diagnosed with Mental Illness. It is a good thing many of these are walking wounded because no economy could survive losing that many tax payers at the same time.

      I do understand that at times in most people's lives things happen which they need help to resolve in most cases by professionals.

      Barbara Kay, I understand that many of the people in prison needed and need help. This is the "legal" way to warehouse people who could have benefited by treatment they never received.

      True cures, I never write anything but original material so it's your loss. If there isn't part of me in something I write I feel I have wasted my time. If I don't know something or can't find information I have no problem saying I don't know.

      I also agree that many of the problems the United States faces today is of their own making. We shipped too many jobs overseas for cheaper labor while people who want work in the U S can't find jobs. It has been my experience that people who have jobs that pay a decent wage have better self esteem and less problems with mental illness.

      I have personally met people who were upper middle class who had mental breakdowns because of trauma's in their lives. I agree they can be cured and those that can afford treatment often are. Like you say it's all about money. As for not wanting some people cured I disagree, those who can really be of benefit to society are often "cured" because they do something the government "needs."

    • True Cures profile image

      True Cures 

      9 years ago from Payette Idaho

      Wheel I didn't read your hub but I saw you wrote it in response to a question.

      I didn't read your hub because I have never found any original information on any hub, or at least I rarely find any. Artistic hubs can be an exception but most health, politics and religion are all based on information already available on the internet and more cookie cutter style. If you feel you have some original content, please forgive me for my assumption.

      As I said in my answer to the same question that prompted you to write this hub, mental illness is as necessary to society as any other disease. I would write a hub on the subject but no one wants to know the truth about health, healing and disease. They would rather believe the medical industry has their personal best interest in mind, probably because they are unaware of any other choices when it comes to health and healing.

      As your hub focuses on "the real cost for caring for the mentally ill", sure it is a burden to the family caring for the mentally ill but our medical industry has designed mental health issues for that purpose.

      For the same reason the world went to a smaller less lethal bullet or military round the world has cultivated and nurtured mental health diseases. When a person in war is shot with a smaller less lethal caliber bullet it takes three people off the battle field instead of just one person killed instantly.

      When a person is diagnosed mentally ill it takes several people to care for them. Family members sometimes give up careers in order to provide in house services and there are countless trained and paid "specialist" involved. All of which supports and benefits our local and worldly economy. It sure doesn't hurt that so many people freely donate to mental illness research, pure profit. People wouldn't donate if they didn't fear mental illness or seen it in someone they cared about.

      Make no mistake, metal illnesses can be easily cured but the economy cannot support cures for any disease. All diseases are easily curable but like mental illness, diseases are extremely profitable while cures remain extremely devastating to our economy.

      Some people believe that cures would be profitable but that is because they too are mentally ill or at least mentally paralyzed. I will nip any argument in the bud right now when it comes to believing cures or effective health care would be profitable.

      Most every important disease is financially a billion plus industry every year for eternity as long as it is left to be believed "incurable". Introduce a cure for any disease and it would be difficult to get one years worth of profit.

      There will be no cures for mental illness or any disease for that matter. No one wants to sacrifice their current quality of life by promoting effective health care only to see a population explosion along with a destroyed economy.

      Mental illness, like all diseases is absolutely necessary for a healthy economy.

    • Barbara Kay profile image

      Barbara Badder 

      9 years ago from USA

      A friend of mine works for the state prison system. He says that a good part of those people are mentally ill and that is why they ended up in prison. It is sad and yes I think our society needs to care for these people.

    • MissDoolittle profile image


      9 years ago from Sussex, UK

      I may be biased on this because I actually have a mental health condition. Yes, there are some people out there that milk it for all it's worth, but then again there are people, sick people, who continue to go to work everyday until another crisis happens.

      As for going back to past methods.... is that really what anyone would want? 1 in 4 people develop some kind of mental illness, that means you or someone you love could be treated how people were treated jut 50 years ago.

      I think the reason why costs have gone up is because the government has launched a huge campaign into making people with a mental illness speak up. So more people are going to their GP, more people are being referred to psychiatric services, meaning more people in hospital and in therapy.

      If we go back to past times, people will withdraw, and then nobody will be getting better - and nothing will change.


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