Americans Need Immediate Help | Sharon Engdahl, Executive Director

From child to senior our loved ones are getting very sick and dying because America is not properly educated on the early signs and symptoms of mental health problems which includes addictions.

The all-in costs of America’s drug addiction problem are one trillion dollars ($1,000,000,000,000) every year. The cost of suicide and suicide attempts in America is estimated at $93.5 billion ($93,500,000,000) per year!  And the numbers keep rising year after year.  People are suffering.  People are dying.  Families are being destroyed.

Albert Einstein is credited with saying the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.  Hmmmm, seems like the American taxpayer and the leadership of their elected officials and others are experiencing a mental health problem.

It is overtime for changing things up.  Americans can get well if we address the core problem – a public health epidemic that has been going on for over 50 years without proper attention provided to reduce sickness, death, and unnecessary suffering.  It is prevention and early intervention education of mental health problems which includes substance use abuse.

Some folks are trying to get to the core problem with promoting trauma informed care, which is good: however, that is still not going deep enough.

In the 1950’s America’s mental hospitals were overflowing.  Deinstitutionalizing began.  People with mental health issues were moved into the community.  In 1955 there were hundreds of thousands of people in the nation’s public mental health hospitals.  Where are they now?  Some have died, many are in our county jails and state prisons.  Most of them have made lives for themselves in the community and have had children.  And now their children are having children. This is very good news.

The bad news is mental health problems in many cases have genetic links. Without education on prevention and the early signs and symptoms of a mental health problem, these people get sicker and sicker. So, without recognition or understanding of what is wrong, we have an opiate epidemic and a suicide epidemic which is really a mental health problem epidemic.

Even though prevention and early intervention of mental health problems has been scientifically proven to work for decades America has not and is not educating the public optimally about this.  This is a public health problem that needs proper public policy to solve it.

Over the past decades, and now, public dollars have been spent on prevention of drug and alcohol disorders and suicide prevention instead of on education of prevention and early intervention of mental health problems.  In fact, there are very few dollars effectively spent on prevention and early intervention education for mental health issues.  Neuroscience has proven that serious psychological distress are medical conditions, can be successfully treated, and just like other physical illnesses, the earlier the treatment the better.

It is well established there are 4 stages to a medical condition:  1) mild symptoms and warning signs 2) symptoms increase in frequency and severity and interfere with life’s activities and roles 3) symptoms worsen with relapsing and recurring episodes accompanied by serious disruption in life activities and roles 4) symptoms are persistent and severe and have jeopardized one’s life.  Yet, the medical conditions related to mental health problems have only been provided education for the 4th stage of illness which is where addiction and suicide occur.  There are early signs and symptoms of mental health problems (1st, 2nd and 3rd stages of the illnesses) but Americans do not know what they are!  Why?

Michael Berk, PhD., at Deakin University School of Medicine and the 2015 recipient of the Colvin Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Mood Disorders Research says prevention of depression works but the message isn’t getting out to the public.

The American Mental Wellness Association is getting the message out Dr. Berk.  And we encourage every American to learn the very early signs and symptoms of a mental health problem forming so we can become a healthier, safer, loving society.  Check the website Click on Resources. There you’ll find prevention and early intervention educational materials that show, from preschool to older adult, the 1st through 4th stages signs and symptoms of a mental health problem which includes substance use disorders.

Without providing prevention and early intervention public education on mental health problems it is nearly impossible to reduce the number of people living with addictions and/or the number of people succumbing to suicide.  We do need to help our very sick: but, not educating for prevention and early intervention of these physical medical conditions will continue to keep the entire country in poor health and throwing money to the wind.

Let’s do the right thing, for the right reason, the right way NOW!

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The American Mental Wellness Association is the unifying voice for prevention, early intervention, scientific research and cures of mental health problems which includes substance use disorders for the holistic health of the individual and society.  Sharon Engdahl is the Executive Director and has over 40 years of background and involvement in the mental health area.