I’ve heard different statistics about what depression costs the economy, primarily from an economic standpoint and all guesses. Business analysts say untreated depression is the largest healthcare expense of corporations. The World Health Organization says it is the leading cause of disability worldwide. But are we even beginning to capture the cost?
I want to outline how I see it affecting people, and I encourage anyone to throw out numbers and I guarantee you that if we put prevention programs in place we would make billions of dollars AND have a much healthier nation. I have no doubt in my mind, yet day after day we continue down the same road. We need a revolution.
The way I see it, untreated depression and mental health care:
- Drives up crime. At least 2/3 or people in jails have depression and other mental health issues. And my guess is it is 100% – if you are killing or raping or stealing, you have issues with your self-worth and impulse control. Period. How much does it cost to house a prisoner?
- Increases drug and alcohol abuse. If you can’t control your emotions with learned skills, you will do it how you see others doing it; drugs, alcohol, cigarettes and sugar. What do we spend on drug and alcohol rehab? Family programs?
- Increases obesity. Many people eat to deal with their feelings. It is what we are taught as children and we get rewarded and punished with food. We put good things in our mouths so we have momentary escape from the bad things in the world. What are the costs of obesity?
- Increases illness. Depression is so often misdiagnosed, and often we ourselves don’t want to say ‘we are depressed’. Depression hinders our immune system, making us more susceptible to other illnesses and diseases. What is our healthcare system paying for misdiagnosis?
- Increases hospital costs. In the U.S., 30,000 people a year commit suicide, and 10X that attempt suicide. Guess where they go? To emergency rooms. The cost of that emergency room visit?
- Increases addictive tendencies. Overspending, overeating, gambling, sex addictions, texting while driving addictions, etc. etc. The cost to treating all of this is, immeasurable, not to mention the emotional devestation from lost lives.
I really could go on and on and on. Working in the field, I can’t tell you how many people have come to me saying ‘I want and need help, but have nowhere to go’. Hospitals won’t treat me, Medicaid doesn’t cover it, and hospitals kick me out after 72 hours. My brain isn’t working what can I do?
Do you know the helplessness these people feel? Their brain already isn’t working, they already feel bad, and now we tell them you are not important enough to help? How does that then trickle into society?
It just does not make sense to me. If I am feeling like I want to kill someone, what do I do? I hide in shame because I am not allowed to feel that way. Imagine if instead it was encouraged that I go in and talk to someone, and work through my anger. I could walk into any emergency room or hospital and could get an hour of therapy, free. Instead, we just give these people a place to live after the fact, further shaming them and adding to the cycle.
Our brain is our most precious resource, yet we continue to ignore the fact that it isn’t perfect and can become sick, just like any other part of our body. Further, we put laws and rules in place that discourage people who have a sick brain from getting help. We ignore the problem, and spend all of our money cleaning up the mess it leaves.
How can this change?