Letter: Attention to mental illness | PostIndependent.com

Letter: Attention to mental illness

I am a student at Glenwood Springs High School. In my government class, we are tackling the annual Project Citizen assignment. Project Citizen is a research project where students pick an issue that is prominent in their community and create a solution. My group and I have chosen mental health as our topic.

Did you know that the only psychiatric hospital in our area, West Springs, has six psychiatric beds for every 100,000 people? This is remarkably insufficient when it is realized that nearly 1 in 5 Americans are affected by some sort of mental illness each year.

My group and I propose that a portion of Colorado's budget be set aside for the expansion of psychiatric care in existing hospitals. At the very least, care needs to be available a few times a week. This issue is becoming more recognized. In 2016, it was announced that St. Mary's is granting $2.5 million for the expansion of Grand Junction's psychiatric hospital. Construction is expected to begin this year.

Mental illnesses contribute to a wide variety of related problems all over the United States. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 70 percent of juveniles in the system have at least one mental health condition and at least 20 percent live with a serious mental illness. Approximately 26 percent of homeless adults staying in shelters have a serious mental illness. In America, serious mental illness costs about $193.2 billion in lost earnings per year.

But the solution to such an extensive issue begins with people's awareness of its existence. If you are interested in the expansion of mental health care, consider contacting your local policy maker about this issue. Make your voice heard and promote the change that you want to see.

Kirstin Wilson

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