Mayor Article

The Office of the Surgeon General Releases First-Ever Report on Mental Health

By Crystal Swann

Dr. David Satcher, Surgeon General of the United States, released the first-ever report on mental health, Mental Health: The Report of the Surgeon General. The report, a 500 page scientific document, focuses not only on the wide range of treatment methods that exist for most mental disorders but also examines the environmental and social determinants to mental illness. It concludes that nearly 53 million Americans, approximately one in five, have a mental disorder and despite numerous treatment options, nearly half of those with severe mental illness fail to seek treatment. Significant scientific advancements in treatments for mental illness have paved the way for many effective and safe treatment options for those with mental disorders.

A fragmented U.S. mental health service system, financial barriers and the stigma attached to mental illness have all served as huge obstacles to treatment for many Americans. "The U.S. mental health service system is complex and connects many sectors (public-private, specialty - general health, health-social welfare, housing, criminal justice and education)." Couple a fragmented service delivery system with various financing mechanisms and competing incentives between funding sources and the result of a breakdown is access to and delivery of care.

The report takes a life-span approach in considering mental health and mental illness devoting chapters to trends seen among children, adults, and the elderly. According to the report, "different stages of life are associated with vulnerability to distinct forms of mental and behavioral disorders but also with distinctive capacities for mental health."

While the document refrains from making specific policy recommendations, it does state that overcoming stigma, improving public awareness of effective treatments, and reducing financial barriers to treatment are essential to the mental health of the nation.

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