Florida’s Mental Health Policies Not Helping Fight Epidemic

Florida Struggling With Mental Health Epidemic

There’s a worldwide epidemic going on and nobody seems to be talking about it. The World Health Organization has declared that mental health illnesses are the new epidemic with depression being one of the biggest mental health issues. The WHO decided last October to start a campaign to discuss and raise awareness for depression. The campaign, aptly titled “Depression: let’s talk,” kicked off in October and is a yearlong discussion about mental health and depression.

It’s not hard to see the world’s leaders in the medical field wanting to do something about this epidemic as 800,000 people die from suicide every year according to the WHO website. Another interesting statistic from the WHO is that suicide is the second highest cause of death for the age group of 15-29.

It’s not just a problem, it’s something that is killing thousands of people like cancer but yet no one talks about it even though it has an impact on everything.

mental health

How It Affects Family

What makes depression as dangerous as cancer? It’s not hard to imagine how tough it is to deal with cancer. There’s the chemotherapy, the change of life style and the sinking feeling that nothing is going to help get that loved one better. One someone has cancer most of the time it isn’t just affecting the person but also the family and support group.

Depression is no different. What makes depression a bit more dangerous is unlike cancer, those victims of depression don’t seem to have the support of their family. Not in a bad way, but more along the lines of the family or support group doesn’t necessarily understand what the victim of depression is going through.

“Depression often divides families,” Julie Totten, who founded Families for Depression Awareness, said in an interview with Psychology Today. “Some people don’t understand it and want to run far from it. Others do everything in their power to get a person well, including hunting out magic cures.” Ultimately, she said, “they realize there’s no such thing. And they feel cheated. Depression has to be managed.”

Part of this divide is how the family reacts to those who suffer from depression. It can make the symptoms worse for a variety of reasons. Psychologist David Miklowitz has even developed a treatment for families.

“Patients become hyperaroused,” Miklowitz said to Psychology Today. “Imaging studies show that fear centers are activated in the brain when depression-susceptible people hear a family member criticizing them.”

Florida’s Lack Of Mental Health Plan

Stand Your Ground

However, one has to wonder what the government does in a situation like this to help those who suffer from mental illnesses like depression. Currently, the United States has made some strides to help those who suffer from mental health. The controversial Affordable Health Care act has helped with that by including mental health benefits as essential for coverage.

On a state level for Florida, the backing isn’t there.

Florida has over 666,000 adults and 181,000 children that suffer from mental illness based on a special report done by the Orlando Sentinel. Those illnesses range from depression to severe bipolar disorder along with several other issues.

What’s troubling is that Florida is 49th when it comes to mental health programs for states as it only spends $37.28 per person per the National Association of Mental Health Program Directors Research Institute. To put it in perspective, Maine spends roughly $338 per person through its mental health programs. Overall, Florida spends roughly $718 million towards mental health programs but it doesn’t seem to be enough.

The sunshine state is rampant with a dark cloud and doesn’t have the funding or the infrastructure to pull itself together. That is why lawmakers are calling for sweeping changes in the state including taking federal money to help.

Florida’s mental health crisis is brought to the forefront with some of the recent acts of violence that have been committed here, including the shooting at the Fort. Lauderdale airport just a mere few weeks ago, where in that case Alaskan officials were unable to help Esteban Santiago before he took a one way flight to Florida to shoot up the airport, or the FSU shooter from a couple of years ago.

Hope Through Exposure, But What Does Future Hold?

There is a lot of uncertainty as the new administration and the GOP want to do away with the ACA. Also, Florida still doesn’t have a plan to deal with the rising epidemic of mental health.

The good news is that with each conversation, the stigma of mental health gets smaller and smaller. Campaigns such as the WHO’s and the ever popular “Bell Let’s Talk” movement make it possible. For those who don’t know, “Bell Let’s Talk” is a Canadian campaign designed around every text, tweet, Facebook Video and Snapchat geo filter, the telecommunications company Bell will donate $.05 to mental health initiatives across Canada.

When it comes to mental health illnesses, it’s all about ending the stigma. Because mental health issues don’t affect one individual, it’s something that strikes at anyone without prejudice and attacks the collective.

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Thomas Fernandez is the managing editor for Sports Talk Florida and News Talk Florida. He started his career in media by covering the NHL and the Tampa Bay Lightning. After covering the NHL for two years, he hopped on board the news cycle and has been covering both sports and news for the last year. He has covered major sporting events as well as politics which affects the Florida audience. Thomas is a Tampa native and graduate of the University of South Florida with a bachelor of arts in Public Relations.