Mentally ill Patients on the rise as states cut funds

“He had been homeless for about two weeks. He had not showered or eaten a lot. He asked if we had a meal tray,” this is a statement by Dr William Sullivan from the medical centre at the University of Illinois, Chicago. He is also a former president of Illinois College of Emergency Physicians. He said this after he treated a homeless patient who had threatened to kill himself.

Sullivan added, “It seemed almost as if he was interested in being admitted.” This is the plight of many doctors and physicians across the country who are facing a heavy rise in the cases of attempted suicide, psychosis or severe depression. To make the matters worse, states have slashed their mental health services because of the economic depression that the country is facing right now. Director of the acute psychiatric service at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Dr Felicia Smith, said, “These are people without a previous psychiatric history. They are coming in and telling us they’ve lost their jobs, they’ve lost sometimes their homes, they can’t provide for their families, and they are becoming severely depressed.”
Mentally ill patients

There has been a rise of 20% in these cases in the last three years. In some cases, all that the patients need is a warm bed. Director of the Spectrum Health Medical Group Centre for Integrative Medicine in Grand Rapids in Michigan, Dr R. Corey Waller said, “The more I see these patients, the more I realize that if it’s sleeting and raining outside, the emergency room is the only place they have.” From doctors, mental health advocacy groups to state funded agencies, everyone is telling that they are seeing a gradual increase in psychiatric emergencies. In the past three years, the states have cut aids to mental illness by almost 3.4 billion dollars but the no. of patients has increased by 400,000.

According to a survey conducted by an independent agency across 600 hospitals in 2010, more than 70% of them told that they have been compelled to keep patients waiting in emergency ward for more than 24 hours. To make things worse, many hospitals are not ready to accommodate the increasing no. of patients that visit them. Randall Hagar, the director of Government Affairs in the California Psychiatric Association said, “They don’t have secure holding rooms. They do not have quiet spaces. They don’t have a lot of things you need to help calm down a person in an acute psychiatric crisis.”

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