The Impact of Mental Health on Society
The impact of mental health on society is both widespread and complex. It can involve genetics and brain chemistry, social factors, and the role of the criminal justice system.
Social factors that affect people living with mental illnesses
There is increasing evidence linking social factors to mental illnesses. Psychiatrists are well aware of the importance of these social risk factors and how they impact patient outcomes. Using a biopsychosocial model, they can predict the etiology of a disorder and develop treatments.
Although researchers are advancing the understanding of the connections between these social determinants and health, there is still a great deal to be learned. A movement to address these issues can increase social supports for disadvantaged patients and speed up the evaluation and dissemination of interventions.
Public policies are a major driving force behind the social determinants of health. These policy decisions have far-reaching effects on the health of individuals and communities. They affect a variety of facets of society, including the distribution of opportunity. In some cases, public policies also have an indirect effect on mental health.
Genetic exposures and brain chemistry
Various factors including genetics, lifestyle, and environment interact in a complex and often awe-inspiring way. Aside from the obvious physical ailments like anxiety, depression, and PTSD, one can argue that mental illness may be a symptom of a much more sinister source. In other words, it may be a function of prenatal exposure to Streptococcus bacteria and related microorganisms or an unrecognized cause of atypical psychiatric manifestations. Luckily, a few steps in the right direction can go a long way in preventing or at least minimizing its effects.
For starters, it’s best to heed the advice of experts. In short, the most common mental health issues afflict people of all ages, making it a good time to be proactive. To help, researchers at the University of California-San Francisco have developed a new system to test for the presence of the microorganisms. They have also devised a multi-variate screening plan based on a unique combination of clinical characteristics and exposure. Ultimately, they have the goal of developing a standardized diagnostic tool to help prevent and minimize mental health problems.
Intergenerational dependence and mental health affect society in many ways. From the impact of parental substance abuse to the generational cycle that results, intergenerational effects can be far reaching. In order to break this vicious cycle, families need to have authentic, open conversations about the past and how it has affected them.
One example of the intergenerational health relationship is a study that measured the lifetime prevalence of opioid dependence among respondents’ parents. It found that the offspring of a parent who had a history of using opioids was more likely to become addicted than an offspring of a non-opioid dependent parent.
The same study found that a child’s likelihood of developing poor health increased by 29% if their father had a history of poor health. This study used data from the US National Surveys on Drug Use and Health.
Barriers to treatment for depression
Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) estimates that over 17 million Americans experienced major depression in the past year. That’s about 6.7% of the population. Despite its prevalence, many people don’t seek treatment for symptoms.
A study published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry examined barriers to diagnosis of depression in elderly patients. Barriers included: stigma, lack of knowledge, lack of insurance coverage, and lack of access.
Stigma can include discrimination or negative opinion. It’s important to understand how it affects a person’s life. When someone feels stigmatized, it can lead to a negative self-image. Identifying these stigmas can help people with depression feel less alone.
Other barriers are structural. These include concerns about confidentiality and transportation. For instance, a patient may need to meet with a physician in person, and may not have a reliable means of transportation.
Youth with mental illnesses end up in the criminal justice system
Youth with mental illnesses are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system. This is not only harmful to the individual, but also to society as a whole.
Mental illness is not a reason to incarcerate people, but it does create huge economic costs, including social supports and loss of income due to unemployment. In order to reduce the number of youth with mental illness incarcerated, we must provide adequate community mental health services.
There are a variety of factors that contribute to the over-representation of individuals with mental illness in the criminal justice system. For example, law enforcement often fails to understand the causes of mental disorders, and a lack of effective diversion strategies can result in criminalization.
Additionally, the criminal justice system is not equipped to provide appropriate treatment for complex needs. To address this, institutions should be provided with screenings and access to mental health professionals. They should also work together to formulate reintegration plans.