Mental Illness and Economic Trends Term Paper

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mental health field and the economy. The writer presents a hypothesis that the economic downturn can and does contribute to increased mental health issues.

National economies fluctuate constantly. Sometimes the slump is short lived and other times the downturn lasts for years. The mental health of those who live in an area that is suffering from an economic downturn can fluctuate as well. Those who are caught in the throes of the downturn experience life chances that might include less disposable income, fewer job opportunities and fewer health benefits. All of these things and the other factors that an economic downturn brings to ones life can create an atmosphere that is conducive to mental illness being triggered.

Before one can determine that a downturn in local, regional or national economies can cause an increase in mental illness one must first have an understanding about what mental illness is. Mental illnesses include a wide scope of various disorders. Mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression are inclusive of other disorder such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Anxiety, Panic attacks and Hypochondria. These mental illnesses are easily triggered by stress and it makes sense that a downturn in the economy where a person lives can lead to stress for that person for many reasons. There are many mental illness disorders that are naturally going to be more susceptible to the types of stress that an economic downturn will cause. The stress of an economic downturn can impact the daily lives of many who live within the region. An economic downturn that lasts for extended periods of time can cause people to lose their jobs by large numbers and for long periods of time. The economic downturn can also cause one to have difficulty locating a job as well as live in fear that they are going to lose their job. The need and demand to take care of family members who are affected negatively by an economic downturn can also cause one to sink into a depression or to be immersed in one of the anxiety driven disorders. Because these individual situations can lead to anxiety or depression it is plausible to state that an economic downturn can cause an increase in mental illness.

Within the last five years federal and state mandates have made welfare something that is limited for those who collect it (Edwards, 2001). Generations who have depended on the system are finding themselves with a time limit for getting off the doles. The economic downturn of the nation coinciding with the new federal welfare mandates can collide and cause recipients to be fearful for the future. This fear can be aggravated by the inability to find jobs, the cost of daycare and other things that a booming economy might take care of on its own. These problems coupled with the inevitable booting off the system can cause the mental health issues of the recipients to increase. Depression among welfare recipients is a common disorder as is the incidence of anxiety driven disorders (Edwards, 2001). Whenever there is an economic downturn there are going to be more people signing up for benefits. Those same people who are losing their jobs and turning to the state for aid are being faced with stresses caused by the economic downturn that they had not faced before. These stresses can lead to depression as well as panic attacks, which affects their ability to adjust and overcome the stress that has been caused by the economic downturn.

The incidence of economic downturns contributing to the increase in mental health issues is not exclusive to the United State. In Asian the economic downturn's affect on the mental heath status of its residents have been well documented (Suvendrini, 1998. "Asia's economic downturn is sapping the region's health resources, putting women and the poorest at greatest risk and threatening to reverse hard-fought gains made in improving health over the decades (Suvendrini, 1998. " The healthcare industry includes the mental health issues and being affected in that field includes stress leading to mental health issues as well (Suvendrini, 1998.

According to experts at any given time about 20% of the population in America is affected by mental health issues (Regier, 2002). "The Global Burden of Disease study issued in the early 1990's by the World Health Organization found that mental illness was the second leading cause of disability and premature death worldwide, second only to heart disease and outstripping the disease burden caused by cancer. Major problems continue to exist in the public safety net and in the availability of effective outpatient treatments for acute and chronic mental disorders. Access to any specialty mental health services has increased from 0.8% of the population in 1950, to 3% in 1975, about 6% in 1983, and up to 7.0% in 1996. In addition, primary care settings have become an increasingly important part of the mental health service system providing such care to 6-7% of the population (Regier, 2002)." recent report by the Surgeon General's office determined that the mental health issue has cost American employers over $70 billion annually and that cost has increased in more recent years. It is interesting to note that the economic downturn has taken a stronghold on the American population in recent years as well. This increase in the stresses of economic troubles on Americans and the increased need for mental health services may be related to each other (Regier, 2002).

Another study discovered that decreased economic ability to address mental health issues cause an increase in mental health issues themselves. According to one study when a national company decreases its ability or willingness to assist in the cost of treating mental health, such as in an economic downturn, the incidence of mental health issues does increase (Regier, 2002).

As the recent economic downturn began the cost of provision of mental health care through employers has decreased.

The downturn of the economy can cause many people to lose their benefits. That loss adds stress to the person who has also lost their job and is struggling to support themselves or their families. There are many stresses that are caused in this situation and depression is one that is frequently seen. Insurance loss in and of itself is a tremendous stressor that can cause a mental illness such as depression or anxiety to be triggered. The following chart outlines the percentage of direct costs for mental health that are born by different resources during 1996.

Distribution of 1996 U.S. population and mental disorder direct costs by insurance status

Insurance Status Population Direct Costs

Private 63%* 47%

Public *** 53%

Medicare 13%** 14%

Medicaid 12%** 19%

Uninsured ***

State/Local 16% 18%

Other Federal *** 2%

Total 100% 100%

About 70% of the population has some private insurance -- reflecting the fact that 7% of the population has both Medicare and Medigap or other dual private insurance coverage.

When one looks at the history of mental health care expenditures one can easily see that the trend has been increased spending between 1986 and 1996(Regier, 2002)."

The economic downturn in America began several years ago but economic downturns have been weathered since the beginning the country. One does not have to look further back than the Great Depression to answer the question as to whether economic downturns can contribute to mental illness development. Students who study the Depression are taught that many people who lost everything committed suicide because to he depression that was triggered for them. The mental health of the recent economic downturn may not be as drastic however it cannot be denied. In addition to suicides and other self-injurious depression behaviors, economic downturns can also cause mental illness that causes violence. School shootings, snipers and people who go into public places and start shooting others…

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