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Mental health problems are widespread
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According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one out of four adults (almost 60 million Americans) "experience a mental health disorder in a given year." The fact that 25 percent of this country's adult population experiences a mental health problem is a staggering statistic, but it is also nice to know a large percentage of people end up functional and productive once they receive medical or psychological treatment, along with strong support from family and friends.

There are many forms and causes of mental health disorders. According to one descriptive source, "Mental illnesses are medical conditions that disrupt a person's thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning." "Mental illnesses can affect persons of any age, race, religion, or income. Mental illnesses are not the result of personal weakness, lack of character or poor upbringing. Mental illnesses are treatable." It is a mistake to assume that people with mental health disorders are "crazy" or otherwise disabled such that they cannot function reasonably at work, home or elsewhere in society.

Mental health problems, in the extreme forms, may feature behaviors that seem bizarre or where the patients are a danger to themselves or others, but most are more subtle; a large percentage of mental health disorders manifest in various forms of depression. Some mental health problems are brought about by drug abuse, some are precipitated by poor diet, stress can prompt these kinds of problems and in some cases, patients may be genetically predisposed to mental health afflictions. Regardless of cause, mental health can improve through proper treatment.

It is important that mental health problems be identified early-on, thus allowing for improved and accelerated chances for recovery and reduced chances for harm. Research suggests that many people who end up in prison have an underlying mental health issue that [may] have a role in their anti-social or criminal behavior. Accordingly, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation employs a large cadre of psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers and others who specialize in mental health care. Still, there is a criminal recidivism rate in excess of 72 percent of prisoners who leave California penal institutions.

The vast majority of persons with mental health problems are not destined for criminal behavior. They are simply people, who, like anyone else, are living their daily lives and harming no one. The difference is that they lack mental contentment, they may be afraid, and they probably need help. And owing to budget shortfalls, county treatment facilities are unable to provide all but the most basic care. Patients are given just enough treatment to bring about temporary stability and then sent home. The long term solution rests with the patient and primary care provider (the family doctor). Persons with adequate health care insurance are fortunate, as in most cases they will have access to a system that provides the correct kind and amount of care. But for those without insurance, the process back to a healthy mental condition can be a challenge.

Regardless of a person's financial situation, or whether they have insurance or not, it is critical that family members and friends pool their financial resources to help their loved one get through the difficult times. This will help ensure that they remain stable and mentally healthy for the long term. The failure to treat almost always ends up with a worsening situation, with reduced prospects for the patient's complete recovery.

As a final consideration, the police are required by law to have specialized training for on-scene assessments of persons who are having a particularly difficult time. In situations where a person is so afflicted that they pose a danger to themselves, the police have the authority to commit the person to a 72-hold at a mental care facility. This may seem extreme, but when warranted, such commitments may well save the person from injury or death. And in most instances, the emergency care providers can bring about patient stability rapidly and effectively. At the first signs of even subtle odd behaviors or symptoms, it is best to have the affected person see a physician. The best course of action is, whenever possible, to seek treatment as soon as possible, and thus avoiding the need for emergency intervention. Waiting until the patient enters a state of severe psychosis increases the dangers and the recovery time.