Rake: Suicide crisis highlights need for mental healthcare
Many thanks to the News-Times and Hillsboro Tribune for breaking the silence about the tragedy of suicide in our society, particularly right here in Oregon.
Although the reality of suicidal death has never (thankfully) come to harm any of my close loved ones, as a sibling, parent or relative of family members living with depression and who have thought about, talked about or even attempted suicide, I have lived at times with the fear of that phone call.
As a retired educator, too, I have personally witnessed one too many times the devastating effect of suicide on fellow students — on entire school populations — when a classmate has taken his or her life.
And yet, despite bringing to light some very pertinent information in the News-Times and Hillsboro Tribune, there's still a troublesome issue about which your editorial board — not to mention America as a whole — remains deadly silent. That's the reality that mental health coverage and access to it is limited in America, even treated as an afterthought (if at all) by most health insurance policies. And despite the fact the National Rifle Association and (mostly) Republicans in Congress scapegoat mental health invariably after every mass shooting, they then hope we'll all soon forget that affordable mental care treatment is a luxury item in America's healthcare shopping mall.
The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) attempted to address this problem by making some mental health coverage an obligatory component of any basic health care policy. Yet, this stipulation has since been gutted along with other parts of the ACA.
As the current administration in Washington continues to have its way, eventually we will return to the days of healthcare for the well-employed and the well-to-do. And even then, those wealthy folk who can afford coverage for physical ailments will find themselves mostly digging into their own pockets to treat the scourge of mental health disorders because the health system in America regards mental health like it regards dental health: that's to say, we'll see you X times per year up to the policy maximum (frequently that means no more than half a dozen visits up to a max of $1,000 a year).
Most healthcare professionals, I believe, will tell you that mental health issues (like depression), which are a leading cause of suicide, can't be treated like preventive dental hygiene: biannual visits and an occasional root canal (paid only up to the policy limits). Depression is chronic and real and demands continually, often life-time attention by professional health care providers.
Until Americans, America's lawmakers and America's healthcare system stand up and say we deserve better and we can do better, depression and suicide will continue to be the plague that it has been and is today.
Timothy Rake is a former Peace Corps volunteer and retired educator. He lives in Forest Grove.
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