Kid with backpack

What Future Do Kids Have If Mental Health Care Bankrupts Their Families?

I want you to read, or listen, to this story from NPR:

Paying for mental health care leaves families in debt and isolated

Now, I want you to consider what happens to these kids. As one of the parents is quoted, how do they send their kids to college? They are in debt and have no savings for things like that. They’ve financially bankrupted themselves just to keep their child alive, and once that child becomes an adult, then what? What happens to them? There’s no family wealth to pass down for any continued care they may need. They will likely have to take on more debt to pay for a college education if they can do that.

As I listened to that story, the same thoughts kept running through my mind:

  1. The lack of affordable resources likely means there are tens of thousands of families who get no help at all. The story refers to parents simply leaving kids at a hospital and giving up their parental rights. Those are the ones we know about. How many more simply live with a seriously mentally ill child without help?
  2. Even those who get help are going bankrupt to pay for it. Is that better? Slightly. We’re still condemning these kids to a lifetime of a struggle financially when they already have so many struggles due to their condition. This effect will continue for generations, and the siblings will be stuck in the same cycle.
  3. Our current insurance system won’t fix this. They can’t. Even if we enforced the rules on covering mental health care on par with physical health care, insurance rates would just go up, making it difficult for millions of people to have it in the first place. Leaving most of the families in the same situation.

We have to face the fact that, as much as we might not openly admit it, we live in a society where kids with mental illness have very little hope, and we don’t care enough to change that. They, their parents, and their siblings are “others” that we’d rather not be bothered with. Societally, we’d rather they went away than be bothered with figuring out ways to help them.

That’s not good enough.


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