The Costs of Untreated Mental Illness
It has been estimated by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) that untreated mental illness may well cost a whopping 500 billion dollars in the United States when all the direct and indirect costs are taken into account. Â But, it is the personal and societal costs of untreated mental illness that, perhaps, is the most profound aspect of untreated mental illness.
At a personal level, those with untreated mental illness are disproportionately represented in the nation’s homeless population where, often times, they struggle for day to day existence. Â Many of those with untreated mental illness end up in hospital emergency rooms when their problems have gotten so severe and uncontrollable that they require emergency care. Â For obvious reasons, this is very costly. Â Those with untreated mental illness are much more likely than those without to rely on public aid for healthcare or to be uninsured. But, it’s the other personal costs which are even more devastating. Â It’s the costs to family members watching helplessly as their loved ones slip away into the darkness of untreated mental illness. Â It’s the caregivers often called upon to care for those with untreated mental illness that must try their best to provide compassionate for an individual who, quite often, resists their efforts to care for them. Â It’s the children growing up not really knowing their parents who are overwhelmed with untreated mental illness. Â These children often end up being raised by relatives or being placed in foster care. Â It’s the spouses who often must endure years of unpredictable and, occasionally, abusive behavior at the hands of a loved one struggling with untreated mental illness.
At a societal level, untreated mental illness exacts a toll that far exceeds a monetary value. Â We know from research that those afflicted with untreated mental illness are much more likely than those without to end up in long-term care facilities or in prison. Â In long-term care facilities, those with untreated mental illness often do not fit into their surroundings. Â They can disrupt the milieu and cause a host of problems for staff members. Â In prison, those with untreated mental illness might be offered psychiatric care, but might also be targeted and ridiculed by other inmates because of their mental illness. Â We know that those with untreated mental illness are much more likely to end up dropping out of school, abuse alcohol and other drugs, and have babies unexpectedly.
The tremendous costs of untreated mental illness at the personal and societal levels demands that we take action. Â These costs cannot and should not be ignored. Â We invite you to learn more about mental illness by exploring the Useful Links section of the this website.