In the Image of God:
Access to Mental Health Care
Diocesan Public Policy Weekend February 11/12, 2012
"[The Church] . . . reminds the political community of its duty to recognize and celebrate the divine image in man with actions that support and serve all those who find themselves in a condition of serious mental illness. This is a task which science and faith, medicine and pastoral care, professional skills and a sense of solidarity must help to carry out through an investment of adequate human,
scientific, and socio-economic resources . . ."
Pope John Paul II, Nov. 1996
Our faith is centered in the belief that each of us reflects the grace and goodness of God. Yet those among us suffering from mental illness are often denied the dignity due them.
Our Diocesan Public Policy Committee is asking us to consider the challenges facing individuals as they live with depression, anxiety, and other mental and emotional disorders. In particular we are asked to consider the situation of young people. In many areas of our diocese, mental health treatment for children is scarce. Desperate parents are forced to travel long distances, sometimes out of state, to seek the care their children need.
There are approximately one million children in New York State with emotional, behavioral, or substance abuse disorders. Yet on average only 20% of children and adolescents with psychiatric disorders in the U.S. receive mental health treatment. This shortage of mental health care providers for young people is a result of a variety of factors - a lower-than-average salary for child psychiatrists compared to other medical specialties, a persistent stigma associated with mental illness, low reimbursement rates, and disparities in funding for graduate students entering the field.