Forbes: Investing in Mental Health Helps Drives our Economy

NYAPRS Note: Increasing funding and providing better access to mental health services yields both positive and measurable outcomes. California’s university system, for example, has seen tangible growth in the number of graduates as a result of their multimillion dollar investment in mental health.

NAMI reports that 23 states have increased their mental health budget for 2015-16, while 12 others have decreased theirs. This is concerning, as “the funding of mental health programs is vital to the people that drive our economy.”


How Investing In Mental Health Reaps Positive Societal Rewards

Forbes – by Tori Utley – December 17, 2015

Although stigma exists around mental health, it is not without opposition. There are many advocate groups gaining headway in reducing disparities and promoting social reform within the mental health sector. Stigma has been a seemingly uphill battle for all who have experienced a mental health condition or who have known someone facing these challenges. Despite the struggle, economic statistics continue to show that we should all be taking mental health seriously for the sake of our economy.

According to a recent article in The Atlantic, the state of California found that increasing funding and providing better access to mental health services within the university system yielded positive outcomes. In fact, this increase in funding led to over 300 additional graduates at schools where programs and funding were implemented, thus concluding that the additional graduates would add $56 million in ‘societal benefit’ throughout the graduates’ lifetimes. Compared to the initial investment of $8.7 million in university mental health funding in California, this presents a significant return on investment.

Although this is just one example of success that results from increased mental health funding, it should spark our attention. As discussions continue regarding changing mental health programs, success stories such as the one in California serve as a critical reminder that the funding of mental health programs is vital to the people that drive our economy.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that only 23 of the 50 states have chosen to increase their state budgets for mental health in fiscal year 2015-2016. This is an improvement compared to previous years, but it still leaves 12 states with decreased budgets, 13 with maintained budgets, and 2 state budgets left pending.


So what is the impact of decreasing or stagnating mental health investment? According to NAMI, untreated serious mental illnesses cost America over $193 billion in lost earnings each year. Additionally, those with a mental health condition have the highest student dropout rate among any other disability group, are more prone to homelessness, chronic health conditions, and criminal justice activity. This is a serious issue – one that is worth our time, resources, and societal investment.

By committing to improving the state of mental health in the United States, we must commit to learning the facts, responding appropriately, and changing our actions. A saying among the addiction recovery community states “if nothing changes, nothing changes.” It’s time to change our approach.

We need to start by leveling the playing field between mental health, physical health, and other disability groups. Stigma towards mental health often labels patients as “unsafe, unstable, and reckless,” among other undesirable connotations. While behavioral difficulties are often experienced alongside a mental health diagnosis, early intervention has been proven to yield higher rates of resilience and recovery for individuals struggling.

Instead of stigmatizing mental health, we should be empowering the recovery movement. Recovery is possible, and when reached, society is better off, individual economic contributions increase, and mindsets shift from condemning to helping. Altruistic mentality puts patients first, addresses their needs, and promotes patients to lead healthier lives. If we eradicate stigma, we can remove the barriers keeping patients from seeking mental health treatment.

When stigma dissolves and mental health services increase, society will benefit. Treatment intervention will occur earlier, jobs will be retained, and we’ll see a reduction in homelessness – ultimately, bettering the state of mental health care for millions of our friends, families, and colleagues.

Every stride made towards making mental health care more equitable, accessible, and destigmatized will lead to greater results that extend far beyond the healthcare sector and into our economy. Continued advocacy, funding, and support of mental health services lead to improved quality of life and productivity across the human lifespan. Mental health equity, from an economic perspective, is a worthwhile investment.