Mental health has a cost

Hamilton County wants to face that issue.

Imagine three cities the size of Cedar Rapids, which has a population of roughly 133,000.

Now imagine that all three of those cities, plus a few suburbs, are populated with mentally compromised adults.

That is the landscape that Iowa is facing: An estimated 473,000 adults in Iowa have a mental health condition.

But only a fraction of them will get help.


One reason is that, in Iowa, 1.8 million people live in a community that does not have enough mental health professionals, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

And, in Iowa, if they do have access to mental health professionals, other barriers can prevent them from seeking help.

One of those is cost.

Of an estimated 154,000 adults in Iowa who did not receive needed mental health care, 29.3% did not get help because of the cost, again, according to NAMI.

How does that lack of treatment manifest?

One way is suicide.

On average, one person in the U.S. dies by suicide every 11 minutes, according to NAMI.

In Iowa, 490 lives were lost to suicide and 129,000 adults had thoughts of suicide in the last year.

Rick Young, the chairman of the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors, knows what that means to a family. He learned, as an adult, why one family member always carried a frown.

“A traveling chicken equipment salesman had stopped to show his wares for sale. This fueled the jealousy in my great-grandfather and an argument ensued. Seeing that it wasn’t going to end well, my great-grandmother sent a son to the neighbors for help,” he recalls learning.

“The other child remaining, a daughter, was sent to the mailbox so as not to witness what she believed was about to happen. The daughter returned in time to witness her father shooting her mom, then turning the gun on himself. The daughter always carried a scowl when visiting us in later years. None of us knew why.”

Today, tucked inside the Daily Freeman-Journal, is a Mental and Public Health magazine that was Young’s idea. It is a Hamilton County initiative that is intended to fall into as many Hamilton County homes as possible. The idea, sprung from his own family’s revelations, is to help this county, and its residents, face mental illness head on.

“Every year, with great passion, we support cancer victims and survivors — which is a wonderful show of community support,” he has said. “Yet for those with that untold look and story very little is done to help.”

Today, mental crises still make their presence known through acts of violence. NAMI reports that, nationally, two people of every five incarcerated in jail or prison have a history of mental illness, and seven in 10 youth in the juvenile justice system have a mental health condition.


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