Mental Illness and the Lack of Care


Emily Butterworth, Writer

Georgia is notorious for how poorly we handle mental illness. There are 10.1 million people living in the state, and according to the SAMHSA, 3.6% of the adults in Georgia are living with a severe mental illness such as bipolar disorder, ptsd, and Schizophrenia. This amounts to roughly 363,600 people.

Georgia is one of the most populous states. Having said that, we should be doing more for people suffering from mentally illness. GA is ranked almost at the bottom when it comes to spending on health agencies. In 2013, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that GA spends about $59 per capita, which is half of the national average.

Georgia is seriously lacking when it comes to mental health resources. We rank 47 out of 50 states in terms of access to resources. We have a shortage of mental health professionals. If you look at it in terms of people, there is roughly one professional for every 1,440 people, according to Mental Health America.  

This issue is even worse for those without insurance. Since a good percent of mentally ill people are unemployed, lack of insurance accounts for a large group of people. Mental Health resources are moderately difficult to come by, but trying to do so while being uninsured is hardly even possible in the current state of things.

The worst consequence of the mistreatment of mentally ill individuals is criminalization. Often, these individuals are imprisoned rather than hospitalized. They are then left to struggle, untreated, in the justice system. More mentally ill individuals are imprisoned than are hospitalized. In Georgia, the likelihood of an individual being incarcerated rather than hospitalized is 5 to 1.

This statistic needs to change, and that is only possible if we make more Georgians — more Americans — aware of and educated about the mentally ill and the care they deserve.