Office of the Surgeon General Releases First-Ever Report on Mental Health
By Crystal Swann
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.
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.
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."
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.