It’s Time to Address Oregon’s Mental Health Crisis

By: Danielle Meyer, MSS

The statistics are staggering: Oregon ranks worst in the nation for prevalence of mental illness, according to a new study by Mental Health America. Oregon also ranked 47th in the nation for prevalence of mental illness among youth.

It should be no surprise, then, that Oregon also has the second-highest rate of homelessness in the nation and claims a top spot for its rate of drug abuse.

The same Mental Health America study showed Oregon near the center of the pack in access to care, and there have been good strides in the direction of mental health care access in recent years. But there is an underlying crisis that must be addressed.

Fifty percent of mental illness begins by the age of 14, according to the American Psychiatric Association, and seventy-five percent of cases have begun by the age of 24. Preventative mental treatment and resources MUST become a standard part of generalized health care. Waiting to address mental health needs until after they have manifested is not only worse for individuals with mental illness, but also arguably more costly to the health care system.

Many Oregon hospitals are on the front lines, developing solutions. Just recently, Oregon students, in partnership with Providence Health Services, pushed legislation that was adopted to expand the definition of excused absences in schools to include mental health. The high school students who propelled this bill are helping Oregon take steps toward better overall health.

Reducing the stigma around mental illness and ensuring access to preventative care may be the only way to truly solve this crisis.