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Standard Mental Health Screenings
You can’t turn on the TV without hearing about the Germanwings pilot who crashed his airliner into the French Alps, killing him and 150 others (CSMonitor.com). Despite the fact that only 3% of all violent crimes can be traced back to a person with mental illness, the media has been our biggest opponent in the fight against stigma.
Reports have shown the pilot, Andreas Lubitz, had a history of depression and suicidal ideation. Controversy has arose over whether people with mental illness should be “allowed” to be pilots and if doctor-patient confidentiality should be waved in such cases if there is a mental illness, such as depression, present.
Each time a tragedy like this strikes, people’s misconception of individuals with mental illness grows. As a mental health advocate, this is incredibly frustrating. One in four people are affected by mental illness each year. Instead of talking openly and finding support from one another, people stay quiet.
Creating a fear of those with mental illness will only discourage those who need help to self-medicate, go untreated, and suffer in silence. The long term effects of an untreated mental illness are far more dangerous for the individual. If we begin to allow employers to not employ someone because they have depression or bipolar disorder, how long will it be before we allow people to discriminate against someone’s physical health condition? Could someone with cancer or an amputee with an artificial limb someday be placed in the same “un-hirable” category?
Had Lubitz not feared that he would lose his pilot license, and that his career would be over because of a depression diagnosis, and received intensive treatment for his depression and suicidal thoughts, I believe that his story would have ended much differently.
My one hope from this awful tragedy is that people will start to understand why integrated healthcare is so vital to the overall health and safety of our community members. If receiving a mental health screening during all annual check-ups was standard, people would no longer feel as though seeing a psychiatrist or psychologist was “taboo.” People would be able to receive treatment for depression at the same location that they would go when they had a cough. Finally, everyone would begin to view mental health equally important as physical health.
After all, our body and mind are connected; one cannot function properly without the other. It’s time we start treating them equally.
About Jill Sauser, The Kim Foundation Project Coordinator
Jill graduated with a degree in Journalism and a minor in Speech Communication from the University of Nebraska at Omaha in 2009. During her time at UNO, she completed a two year PR practicum program where she worked with numerous nonprofit clients including the MS Society, The Archdiocese of Omaha, The Omaha Food Bank, and YWCA. Since becoming Project Coordinator at The Kim Foundation in April 2014, she has become an active member of the Nebraska State Suicide Prevention Coalition, The Omaha Metro Hoarding Taskforce, the Early Childhood Mental Health Coalition, the Metro Area LOSS Team, and is helping lead an initiative with Douglas County Health Department called, “Your Mental Health Matters…Just Reach Out.”