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Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Testimony Presented to the New Freedom Initiative Commission on Mental Health
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Today, I can say that I am one of the lucky people who has had access to the services I need to achieve stability and recovery. This was not always the case. In 1987, when I was first diagnosed, my health insurance plan provided virtually no coverage for mental illness. I was forced to seek treatment from my primary care physician, who knew nothing about treating manic depression. The negative consequences on my life were traumatic and extreme. I lost my job, my home and my family. Were it not for the kindness of friends, I would have become homeless.

I tell you this to illustrate how fine the line can be for a person with mental illness between recovery, stability and dignity on the one hand and falling through the cracks on the other. The disability that many who suffer from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression, anxiety disorders and other severe mental illnesses experience is only partially due to the symptoms of these illnesses. In many cases, disability is attributable to circumstances surrounding severe mental illnesses, including extreme poverty, lack of services and supports, and pervasive stigma and prejudice. Thus, it is crucial that a comprehensive plan to improve services and outcomes for people with mental illnesses address these surrounding circumstances as well as specific treatment and service issues. (Author)
Alexandria, VA