Losing Our Minds

By Chris Leavenworth


Just last week, the rock ‘n roll world lost an amazing artist and human being.


Chris Cornell was famously known as the frontman for three successful bands of the ‘90s and early 2000s—Temple of the Dog, Soundgarden and Audioslave. His voice was critically acclaimed as one of the all-time best in rock. In addition to writing songs that have profoundly touched the lives of countless fans, Cornell spent millions protecting innocent children around the world and was also known for raising money for a variety of worthy causes.


Despite his generosity and philanthropy, his achievements on stage and in the studio, and his deep love for his wife and children, this compassionate man took his life last week at the early age of 52, after performing with Soundgarden in Detroit.


Mental illness is a serious threat in the United States and all over the world. About 42.5 million, or one in five, adults suffer from mental illness annually in the United States, including conditions such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, drug addiction and depression. Rates of youth depression, including severe depression, have increased from 8.5 percent in 2011 to 11.1 percent in 2014


People who are depressed or have a mental illness are less likely to seek help compared to someone suffering from a physical ailment. Eighty percent of depressed youth in the U.S. go without treatment or receive insufficient treatment.


For depressed adults, 56 percent go without receiving help in this country. Vermont, a state that has been rated as having the best access to mental healthcare, has 43 percent of adults with a mental illness not receiving treatment.


With the dismal implications of the American Healthcare Act, those seeking help will have a significantly harder time acquiring it in the United States. Twenty-four million Americans will lose their public or private health insurance by 2026 under the new proposed plan. Millions of those losing coverage are people that endure serious mental illnesses.


An estimated 11 million Americans with incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty level currently have coverage for mental health and substance use disorders made available through Medicaid expansion plans. The AHCA will strip the requirement that these plans cover essential health benefits, which include mental health, substance use and behavioral health services. And those who have private insurance and don’t qualify for key ACA provisions could see their premiums go up by as much as 200 percent if they are already suffering from a mental illness. For people struggling with substance abuse, the increase could be as high as 500 percent.


This is a war on mental health. Without a comprehensive bipartisan strategy to aggressively address mental illness, the United States is going to suffer greatly. The opioid epidemic is just one terrifying symptom of our already failing system. Crime will certainly become worse as mental health continues to decline.


A healthy mind is the most valuable resource we have for survival as a species and our only hope to mitigate suffering globally. When the best people we have are taking their own lives, it should be obvious where our focus should be.

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