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Mental health care must be accessible

Salina Journal - 6/23/2018

Bourdain and Spade had accomplished more professionally than almost anyone could dream - yet in both cases they died by suicide. The accumulation of wealth, prestige and celebrity does not insulate a person from depression, anxiety or despair.

The challenge exists on all levels of society. A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has shown that suicide rates across the United States have risen by 25 percent from 1999 through 2016. Kansas alone has seen a 45 percent increase. The Great Recession has been blamed for some of the change, as well as the ongoing opioid crisis.

Whatever the case, we face a clear-cut public health need. While crisis hotlines are an invaluable resource - and information on them is included at the end of this editorial - they cannot take the place of an adequately funded and stigma-free mental health system and public education campaign.

Insurance plans and the public must understand that mental health is not a separate category. It is health. The ability to live and function with your family, friends and society is critical.

Making that happen takes investment. It takes patience. It takes the understanding that just as there are chronic physical diseases, there can be chronic mental ones too. And just because people live with such a chronic illness does not prevent them from achieving greatness.

But that's not all.

Some who die by suicide don't show obvious signs of a mental health crisis. Their actions can sometimes be hidden or driven by external events. That is why the changes necessary to save lives extend to society as a whole, the conversations we have, the circles of friends we build.

To anyone who may be struggling with depression or mental health challenges now, know that you are not alone. Know that people in all walks of life have dealt with these challenges. Know that many people who put this newspaper together have experienced them, too.

You are valued. Your life is valued. And all of us owe it to our friends and neighbors to build and invest in the kind of sturdy communities that make that value clear.

If you or a person you know might be considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (en español: 1-888-628-9454; deaf and hard of hearing: 1-800-799-4889). You also may contact the Crisis Text Line by sending a text to 741741.

Gatehouse Kansas


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