Opinion: Iowa needs to focus on mental health

Guest column by Kelsey McLellan

According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, 1 in 5 adults in Iowa live with some form of mental illness. With the prevalence of mental illness in the state, mental health care should be widely available and taken seriously. However, in recent years, mental health institutions have been closed and many people are left without options. Iowa frequently places close to last in mental health care, and there is a shortage of psychiatrists. In order to improve upon mental health care in Iowa, we need to provide people with education on this topic.

To improve mental health care in Iowa, we need to provide resources and education to Iowans of all ages. We should have pamphlets and posters displayed in hospitals, doctors’ offices, and possibly even other locations, such as grocery stores. Any way to help educate on and destigmatize mental health issues is pivotal.

Additionally, we need to end the practice of cutting mental health care by the government and continue supporting bills that expand mental health care, such as the one recently proposed by Governor Kim Reynolds. While increasing access to mental health care will be difficult, it is important that all Iowans get the best mental health care available.

Another way to improve mental health care is to address the issue more in the school setting. When I was younger, I never heard much about mental health. Iowa should have school events related to mental health and put more of an emphasis on the availability of school counselors. We should also be providing more mental health screenings in schools as well. A poll by the Des Moines Register showed that over 77 percent of participants supported mental health screenings in schools. By reaching kids before their mental health is unmanageable, we can help kids understand and manage their mental health care needs.

We also need to focus on educating the community as well. Recently, a proposal to build a new mental health care facility was met with pushback from an Iowa community because they were worried about the safety of it. This shows that people are not properly informed about this issue, and schools are the place to start educating citizens. By talking about this issue more on the news and allowing mental health care to have a platform in society, people will become better educated.

Without proper mental health care access and availability, Iowans will continue to suffer. Iowa should make mental health care a priority rather than cutting funding. Both children and adults need to have their mental health needs recognized and met instead of having the stigma around mental health continue. With the proper legislature and community support, we can improve Iowa’s mental health care system.

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