Those suffering from mental illness can be helped -- if appropriate care is made available

At a time when the government is debating which programs to cut to save money, the recent article about a Cockeysville couple coping with loss ("Parents push through the silence on suicide," Aug. 7) is particularly appropriate in explaining to the government that cutting health services, especially those that affect individuals with mental health issues, may seem to save money, but at what cost?

A severe mental illness such as bipolar disorder can be helped by psychiatric rehabilitation, which provides the supports and direction that medication alone cannot offer. Medication can help eliminate symptoms but psychiatric rehabilitation focuses on helping these individuals take charge of their lives. Psychiatric rehabilitation practitioners focus on helping individuals develop skills and access resources needed to increase their capacity to be successful and satisfied in the living, working, learning, and social environments of their choice.

Mrs. Strouse's comments that Kristin "succumbed to a misdiagnosed bipolar illness" is all the more poignant because, had that diagnosis been accurately made, and had Kristin received the benefit of psychiatric rehabilitation, the tragedy of losing her life might never have happened.

Studies have shown that children improve when they participate in psychiatric rehabilitation. They are more likely to do better in school, at home and in the community, and interact better with peers. Unfortunately, because of the stigma associated with mental health issues, shame often outweighs acknowledgment and treatment of the problem in a timely fashion.

The U.S. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association applauds the Strouses for honoring Kristin and her struggles with bipolar disorder through their work. They are to be commended for their efforts not only to educate the public about the issues mental illness can cause, but to work towards eliminating the stigma that often is association with mental health issues.

USPRA has recently established a certificate program to provide psychiatric rehabilitation practitioners who work with children the opportunity to enhance their skills and improve the quality of treatment that these children need — and deserve.

Because they are still growing and developing, children present special challenges (and rewards) for mental health providers. When children with behavioral health issues receive appropriate psychiatric rehabilitation interventions early on, the risk of disability in adulthood is reduced significantly.

Marcie Granahan,Linthicum

The writer is CEO of the U.S. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association.

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