Making Recovery from Mental Illness and Addiction the Expectation, not the Exception

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This week a new study reported that nearly one in five American adults experienced a diagnosable mental illness in 2012. Of these tens of millions of Americans, less than half (41 percent) received any mental health services in that time.

Among the reasons for not receiving help were not being able to afford the costs and fears of what their friends and family would think. Given that half of all Americans experience mental illness at some point in time in their lives, it is very likely that we are their family or friends.

Yet, stereotypes and discrimination against people with mental illnesses persist, sometimes resulting in devastating consequences.

This year, the Administration has made clear that mental illness should no longer be treated by our communities – or covered by insurance companies – differently from other illnesses.

Recovery from mental illness and addiction – through access to medical and other treatments and supports – should be the expectation in America, not the exception.  The goal of recovery includes improved health and a productive life without addiction or the disabling impacts of mental illness. It is made possible by medications, counseling, rehabilitative services, stress and relapse management, self-care and mutual aid, and other services and supports.  The concept of recovery does not negate the fact that an addiction, or for some a mental illness, can be a lifelong condition to be treated and managed over time.

The Affordable Care Act and new parity protections are expanding mental and substance use disorder benefits for about 60 million Americans—making treatment more affordable and accessible.

By Pamela Hyde, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

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