A hard pill to swallow
January 25, 2023
The individual stories of both Rei Cheung and Leah Randhawa reveal two common flaws. One is the mental health system’s inability to treat patients early in their illness, and the other is the emotional disconnection between the patient and the medical professional.
According to a 2022 report by Mental Health America (MHA), over 60% of United States youth (aged 12-17) with major depression did not receive any mental health treatment. Even in a state with the greatest access, nearly one in three are going without treatment.
“It’s almost a human rights concern, in some sense, we do have a youth mental health crisis in our country, and I’ve seen in the last two years post-pandemic, that things have gotten acutely worse and harder for young people,” said Jules Villanueva-Castaño, a mental health crisis first responder.
Castaño, a mental health first responder for fifteen years and advisor for the juvenile justice system, has seen first-hand the effects of late-stage-mental illness. Due to the nature of his occupation, he understands that speed is critical for those suffering from severe depression or suicidal urges.
“It feels very frustrating to hear that there are waitlists, that there continue to be waitlists for young people to receive crisis-level psychiatric services,” Castaño said.
According to Castaño, given the complex nature of mental illness, it is difficult to connect with patients given factors such as stigma, fear of being judged, or having no outlet to voice their feelings. The important takeaway is the encouragement of youth to seek help earlier in their illness.
“I think that adults need to listen more, and adults in the system need to pay attention. We need to be bringing to bear more resources, and really asking questions that maybe adults don’t really traditionally want to hear the answer to,” Castaño said.
To Castaño, though mental health treatment has many holes and gaps, it is vital for a healthy and happy community, and he believes that every good system comes with change.
“While I am critical of the system, I also know that it’s necessary and needed for young people,” Castaño said.