Saturday, April 7, 2012

What's It Worth?

It may be that the reason that mental health gets so little funding support is that our representatives are doing their job--representing the average American's lack of concern.  The abstract for a new paper in Psychiatric Services:
Objective:  Allocation of resources for the treatment of mental illness is low relative to the burden imposed by these illnesses. The reason for this discrepancy has not been established. Few studies have directly and systematically compared public evaluations of the importance of treating mental illnesses and general medical illnesses. This study assessed public willingness to pay for treatments of mental health conditions and of general medical conditions to determine whether willingness to pay less for mental health treatments is due to the perception that mental health conditions are less burdensome.Methods:  U.S. adults (N = 710) in a nationally representative sample were provided with descriptions of two mental and three general medical illnesses. Respondents rated their willingness to pay to avoid each illness and then their perception of the burdensomeness of each illness.Results:  Participants rated the two mental illnesses as relatively more burdensome than the general medical illnesses, but the amount they were willing to pay to avoid the mental illnesses was lower. Specifically, participants were willing to pay 40% less to avoid the mental illnesses compared with the general medical conditions, for a comparable benefit in terms of quality of life.Conclusions:  Even though respondents recognized that severe mental illnesses can dramatically lower quality of life, they were less willing to pay to avoid such illnesses than they were to pay to cure less burdensome general medical illnesses. (Psychiatric Services in Advance, March 1, 2012; doi: 10.1176/

1 comment:

  1. I wonder what causes those attitudes.

    Is it that people still see mental illness as a character fault that can be "overcome?"

    Has the publicity about "insanity defenses" confused the public about the association between responsibility and mental illness, or made mental illness seem like an excuse rather than a burden (in spite of their responses about burdens)?

    Could it be that the decades of quackery exercised in the name of Freud, Jung, Reich and others, and later the new-age-ish psychotherapists (Perl, et al) led people to believe that payment for treatment is a waste because it doesn't work?

    I suspect all are, unfortunately, at play.