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Help Bipolar Community Get Billions Not Millions We Deserve In Spending On Treatment Given Impact Of This Killer Disease
Post by Kerry Martin, CEO and Founder of Hope Xchange Nonprofit.
On World Mental Health Awareness Day, given the number of people impacted by a killer disease that will claim 11% over our lifetime or about 25,000 American lives each year, Hope Xchange demands spending equality for bipolar disorder, an “invisible” physical illness.
There is a glaring mismatch between the enormous impact of bipolar disorder and society’s limited commitment to addressing the impact of this condition. On a federal level, we have not given this condition the attention nor made the investment that could reduce the alarming rate of suicide in the bipolar community as has occurred for other leading causes of death, such as heart disease and cancer.
Little research is being done by pharmaceutical firms for bipolar disorder. Although the FDA has approved drugs that are consumed by 30 million people with major depression and which have enriched America’s pharmaceutical companies to the tune of tens of billions of dollars each year, until just recently, no pharmaceutical company has ever been willing to develop a drug for suicidal bipolar depression. It appears that many of the traditional major US companies focused on psychiatry have abandoned the field, including the iconic maker of Prozac, Eli Lilly. The few that remain are focused on the non-bipolar community, and virtually all studies exclude patients at risk of suicide.
Next Year Around 50,000 Americans Will Die By Suicide. Half Will Have Bipolar Disorder.
Bipolar disorder is a dynamic and serious condition that has a lifelong impact on a person's overall health status, quality of life, and ability to function. The National Institute for Mental Health characterizes it as a brain disorder causing unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. Considered among the ten most disabling medical conditions worldwide, bipolar disorder is the sixth leading cause of disability.
It is currently estimated that 4 to 6% of the population has some form of bipolar disorder, with the disease affecting 5.7 million adults, 2.6% of population age 18 and older. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 83% of these cases are considered severe, with 51% not receiving healthcare treatment.
The risk of suicide among those living with bipolar disorder is 20 to 30 times greater than the general population and significantly higher than other depressive disorders. Over their lifetime, 80% battle suicidal ideation and approximately 28% will attempt suicide within five years. Fifty percent of those with bipolar will attempt suicide at some point in their lives, with up to 11% dying by suicide. Some studies indicate that the suicide rate is closer to 20%.
Bipolar Disorder Most Costly Of All Mental Health Conditions
From a managed-care perspective, bipolar disorder is among the most costly of all mental health conditions, having an enormous impact on the U.S. healthcare system, costing an estimated $30 billion in direct expenditures and $120 billion in indirect costs each year. According to the CDC, bipolar disorder has been deemed the most expensive behavioral health care diagnosis, costing more than twice as much as depression per affected individual. For every dollar allocated to outpatient care for persons with bipolar disorder, $1.80 is spent on inpatient care, suggesting early intervention and improved prevention-management could decrease the financial impact of this illness.
Numbers Do Not Lie: Shedding Light on Funding Disparity
Science Does Not Lie: Mental Illness Is A Physical Illness
Mental health illnesses simply mean that the brain works a little differently. It doesn’t work in a better way or a worse way; simply in a different way. Fundamentally, a mental health illness IS a physical health illness. There are biomedical reasons for these differences in the way the brain processes things and how the brain works. As such, we should be able to access the same quality of care and level of support as those with any other medical condition.
If you still believe that mental health conditions aren’t as devastating as physical ones, a new report will open your eyes. According to new analysis published in Health Affairs Journal, United States spent an estimated $201 billion on mental disorders in 2013, making it the costliest medical condition in the country.
No one in their right mind would ask for it, much like no one would ask for diseases in any other part of the body. Why should it receive so little funding when it profoundly affects and kills so many? Why would someone want a disease that requires you to have to convince your brain to fight off suicidal thoughts all of the time? To fight to keep friends and family from not abandoning you when your depressive or manic behavior drives them away?
Changing Conversation to Shift Perceptions About Mental Illness: Ending Stigma and Eradicating Funding Disparity
We must break down the wall of stigma so that those fighting to hold on can step out from behind the wall of silence we have imposed on them and seek the treatment they need to heal without feeling any shame. Only one in four who have a mental illness are reaching out for help, and yet we scratch our heads and wonder why suicide rates are at a 30-year high.
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States; and, for every suicide, there are 25 attempts, with suicide and suicide attempts costing the US $93.5 billion annually. What is most alarming and heartbreaking is suicide rates are climbing in our most vulnerable populations, with rates recently hitting a 40-year peak for teen girls ages 15 to 19, and now the leading cause of death for LGBTQ youth ages 10 to 24.
We also need to adequately fund treatment so it is there for those in need when they do reach out. To do so, there must be a fundamental paradigm shift in this country in the way mental illness is viewed in order for funding priorities to change. We must view mental illness for what it is — a physical illness — and we must start making common sense decisions regarding funding for mental health treatment given the costs imposed by ignoring the deadly outcome for so many.
Examples of Bipolar Community Being Let Down
Hope Xchange is the only frontline nonprofit in the trenches. We see first hand how those in desperate need are being let down each and every day. Here are just but a few examples from our blog posts that illustrate exactly this:
It’s a near certainty that 25,000 from the bipolar community will die in 2018. How many of us die the following year is up to us. How many more parents suffer unimaginable grief is up to us. How much longer we have to wait until the funding disparity is addressed is up to us.
How much higher suicide rates climb is also the responsibility of the each and everyone of us. We must all respond with both urgency and the utmost compassion not only for those bipolar disorder but also for family members, spouses, parents, siblings and children. We all have suffered enough and too many have died in the process.
Become A Hope Ambassador: Help Advocate For Bipolar Community
If you are feeling hopeless and helpless when faced this social injustice, you are not alone. Now is the time to come together to affect change and make the funding more equitable. You can make a difference. Fellow bipolar advocate and bestselling mental health author Julie A. Fast suggests the following:
To help us more effectively advocate for the community we serve, Hope Xchange would also like to request that if you have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, you please take a moment to complete the short survey below.