The landscape of mental health in the United States is constantly changing. The deinstitutionalization of mental health care, i.e., the shutting down of mental health facilities, has been the pursued mental health policy in the United States for the last 50 years, according to James Panero, writing for the New York Daily News.
According to the Treatment Advocacy Center, 7.9 million in adults in the United States — or 3.3 percent — have severe mental illness. Panero wrote, “In 1955, there were nearly 600,000 mentally ill patients in state psychiatric hospitals. Fifty-five years on, only 43,000 state psychiatric beds remain available for use.”
The Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, has expanded coverage for mental health and substance use disorder to include Americans previously without access to health coverage, and expanding coverage by health plans that previously did not include it.
African Countries in Crisis
In the war-torn countries of Africa — Congo, South Sudan, Mogadishu and Uganda — and in refugee camps in Somalia and Dadaab, photojournalist Robin Hammond documented the shocking indignities inflicted upon the mentally ill in those regions.
Hammond’s feature, CONDEMNED – Mental Health in African Countries in Crisis reveals a grim treatment of shackling, exile and beatings.
Shamans and witch doctors are often the only source of treatment. Hammond wrote, “In regions where both fortune and sickness are attributed to the spirit world, mental illness is considered a curse. Spiritual remedies are often sought, and chains regularly used as restraints.”
The suffering of the mentally ill in these countries goes unseen and unaddressed. Hammond hopes his series will create awarementss and inspire action.
The World Health Organization has determined that mental illness has overtaken cancer and heart disease as the number one health concern in China.