Category Care for Your Mind

Congress Strengthens Mental Health Parity

Carol Rickard

Carol Rickard, Community Education and Outreach
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

With the stroke of his pen on December 13, 2016, as he signed the 21st Century Cures Act, President Obama moved our nation one step closer to treating the whole person and ensuring equal access to health care for individuals living with a mental health condition. This law addresses a wide range of health issues, including a major emphasis on mental health issues. In signing the legislation, the President put into motion critical provisions to improve implementation and enforcement of the 2008 parity law.

The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (the Federal Parity Law) created much-needed protections for ensuring mental health is treated equally to physical health and ending the discriminatory practices used.  As was highlighted in the August 23, 2016 CFYM post, there has been a great void in implementation and enforcement because the federal law left much of the enforcement to the states. This, in turn, left significant gaps in protection to equal access for individuals in need of mental health treatment. The unintentional consequence: a law enacted to protect people has failed to do so.

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What Will Help Faith Communities Address Mental Health and Erase Stigma?

Families for Depression Awareness for Care for Your Mind

This post is another in the Care for Your Mind series on the role of faith, faith leaders, and faith communities in addressing mental health concerns.

Spiritual leaders and faith communities may be where people first turn when they are grappling with a mental health issue. This is often true in the military, according to Chaplain Dianna Watkins in the CFYM post, “Where Do Service Members Get Mental Health Support? (For Many, It’s Not Where You Think.)” Service members turn to their chaplains not only for matters of faith and spirituality, she commented, but for help in addressing their mental health concerns. Working with a chaplain, Ch Watkins noted, allows service members to work around barriers to accessing care. Further, unlike many of their civilian counterparts, military chaplains receive training not only in pastoral care and theology (all have attained a Master of Divinity degree or its equivalent), but also in mental health and suicide prevention.

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Culpable, or Merely Reprehensible? Driving Someone to Suicide

Families for Depression Awareness for Care for Your Mind

Should our society prosecute the people who encourage or drive another to take their own life? We may be seeing the maturation of criminal justice in recognizing the vulnerability of people suffering from depression or bipolar disorder, bringing criminal charges against those who are in some way a significant reason for a person’s suicide.

Two Recent Cases
In Massachusetts, a teenage girl is accused of actively encouraging her boyfriend to take his own life. Through a series of texts, Michelle Carter’s support, advice, and even goading may have pushed Conrad Roy III to his death by suicide. But to what extent does a text – even one as unconscionable as “It’s now or never” – contribute to a person’s decision to attempt suicide? Ms. Carter has been charged with involuntary manslaughter.

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How We Can Support Veterans in Need of Mental Health Help

Care for Your Mind acknowledges and appreciates the collaboration of the National Network of Depression Centers in developing this series.

Sanjai Rao, M.D., VA Medical Center, San Diego

In my previous post, I addressed the challenging state of mental health care for our nation’s returning veterans and their increased risk of suicide. It’s crucial that we step up and ensure that mental health care is available to all former servicemen and women who need it. Now, I propose some possible solutions.

First, a disclaimer: although I work for the VA, I am writing this post as a private citizen, not a VA employee. The views expressed here are entirely my own and not in any way meant to be reflective of those of VA leadership.

Expanding the VA
In order to ensure the best possible outcomes for veterans in need, the VA needs to grow. With more resources, we can hire and train more mental health professionals, and therefore treat more patients. As I discussed earlier, the VA is by far the best place for veterans to get state-of-the art, evidence-based mental health care, but the VA system doesn’t have the capacity to treat everyone as quickly as they need. We do the best we can with what we have, but ultimately Congress regulates our size and budget. It’s up to our elected officials to provide the funding we need to increase our capacity.

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