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Mental Illness in America

How Do We Address a Growing Problem?

Tony Wharton Jeff Menzise

14 pages
National Issues Forums Institute
One in five Americans will have mental health problems in any given year. Unaddressed mental illness hurts individuals and their families and results in lost productivity. In rare cases, it can result in violence.
This issue guide presents a framework that asks: How can we reduce the impact of mental illness in America?

The issue guide presents three options for consideration:

Put safety first
This option holds that more preventive action is necessary to deal with mentally ill individuals who are potentially dangerous to themselves or others. We should identify those who need help and intervene where necessary to prevent them from harming themselves and others. These individuals should be sought out and their needs addressed.

Ensure mental health services are available to all who need them
This option holds that people should be encouraged to take control over their own mental health and be provided the tools to do so. We should make sure that everyone who wishes can get the needed help.

Let people plot their own course
This option holds that we should not rely on so many medical approaches. We should reduce our dependence on drugs and allow people the freedom to plot their own course to healthy lives. In many cases, simple changes to lifestyle can improve mental health.
Author Bio
Tony Wharton is a former newspaper reporter who has written about public policy issues and deliberation for more than 20 years. He was the editor of “Journalism as a Democratic Art: Selected Essays by Cole C. Campbell,” a 2012 publication of Kettering Foundation Press. He and his family live in Richmond, Virginia.

Jeff Menzise is a doctor of clinical psychology, who currently serves as an Associate Professor of Research at Morgan State University's Institute for Urban Research. He earned his Ph.D. from Howard University, where he simultaneously completed a graduate certificate program in International Studies (emphasis on Political Science, Communications & Culture). Dr. Menzise has consulted internationally with various Ministries of Education, and locally with organizations including the Trial Lawyers College and the The Rodham Institute. He recently completed his term as a Public Scholar with the Kettering Foundation.