MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce has two goals: Improve the quality of life in Montgomery and the River Region, and foster economic growth to create jobs. As Chairman of the Chamber, I'd like to take a moment to talk about an issue that greatly impacts both of these goals, but is seldom acknowledged—untreated mental illness.
Would it surprise you to know that in any given year 1 in 5 people will experience a mental illness? Yet, only 60% will receive treatment. The result is that prisons and jails have become our nation's largest providers of mental healthcare.
An important step in recovery from mental illness is having a job, yet in Alabama, the unemployment rate for persons living with mental illness is 89%. In fact, mental illness costs America 193 billion dollars in lost earnings each year. Clearly, mental illness is both a quality of life and an economic issue.
The good news is the River Region Healthy Minds Network is already working on bringing key stakeholders together to collectively break down barriers and encourage more efficient methods of care.
We can choose to remove the stigma surrounding mental illness by talking about it openly and factually. Educate yourself. Voice your concerns to legislators. Right now, we have the opportunity to be a model for what quality, community-based mental healthcare looks like. Let's take it.
Bruce Crawford, 2016 Chairman, Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce.