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Mental Health Resources in North Carolina

Mental Health

With major cuts in the state spending budget, an area that often is neglected is that of mental health. Recently in North Carolina and in other states across the country, many psychiatric hospitals, individual hospital psychiatric wards, and even private psychiatric practices have been shut down, or have suffered a huge reduction in staff and funding. For more information on the budget reductions in mental health resources please see this article and this presentation.

The overwhelming reduction in state mental health resources is alarming considering how common mental illness is. An estimated 1 in 4 adults over the age of 18 suffers from a mental illness. While many people believe that mental illness does not carry the stigma it did in years past, there is still a great need for mental health education, awareness, and medical assistance.

From the National Institute of Mental Health:

“Mental disorders are common in the United States and internationally. An estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older — about one in four adults — suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. When applied to the 2004 U.S. Census residential population estimate for ages 18 and older, this figure translates to 57.7 million people. Even though mental disorders are widespread in the population, the main burden of illness is concentrated in a much smaller proportion — about 6 percent, or 1 in 17 — who suffer from a serious mental illness. In addition, mental disorders are the leading cause of disability in the U.S. and Canada. Many people suffer from more than one mental disorder at a given time. Nearly half (45 percent) of those with any mental disorder meet criteria for 2 or more disorders, with severity strongly related to comorbidity.

In the U.S., mental disorders are diagnosed based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition (DSM-IV)."

Despite the lack of state funding in mental health services in North Carolina, there are many outstanding advocacy groups.

Mental Health

The Mental Health Association of North Carolina is one of the main advocacy groups in the state. Interestingly this organization was founded in Pitt County NC in 1914. The group is now part of a larger consortium called “Mental Health America” and has more than 340 state & local affiliates. Clifford Beers, a resident of New Haven Connecticut in the early 1900’s, had been a patient in various psychiatric hospitals, diagnosed as having bi-polar disorder (formerly called “manic depression.”) Beers’ experiences of being mistreated in psychiatric hospitals led him to form an advocacy group to fight for more humane treatment of people with mental illnesses. Beers’ efforts helped to begin mental health advocacy in North Carolina in 1936. Today the MHA states it’s mission as:

“The Mental Health Association in North Carolina is the state's oldest and largest private, non-profit mental health advocacy organization. Our mission is to promote mental health, prevent mental illness, and eliminate discrimination against people with mental illness. We accomplish these goals through advocacy, education, service and research.”

The symbol for the Mental Health Association is a bell. As a symbol, the bell is significant. The original bell made for the foundation was made from melted down chains and shackles that were used on patients in old psychiatric asylums and sanitariums. The hope was that by taking the cruel and inhumane tools that were once used to restrain patients could be turned into a new symbol–a symbol of hope to help people everywhere have a better understanding and awareness of the treatment of mental illness. For more information on the creation of the Mental Health American Bell, please visit this website.

Additional mental health advocacy groups in the state of North Carolina include:

Mental Health

Recent articles & media regarding the loss of funding for mental health services in NC:

Having available, affordable, and adequate mental health services in North Carolina is an extremely important issue that we need to address as citizens of this state.

Hopefully, with the continued efforts of mental health advocacy groups, North Carolina lawmakers will provide competent and effective mental health service funding in future yearly budgets.

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