Many believe that mental health is one of the most relevant and most discussed subjects circulating the news today. In recent years, the state of Iowa has yielded poor outcomes in terms of mental health concerns. As of 2016, Iowa ranks last in the United States in availability of psychiatric beds. In addition, the state has one of the lowest numbers of licensed psychiatrists in the nation.
However, Iowa may be taking small steps towards improving their substandard mental health statistics. The Mercy Medical Center of Des Moines recently announced their plans to annex an additional hundred beds to their facility. Mercy representatives say they aim to have completed the construction by early 2020.
Furthermore, Iowa recently updated one of it’s most prominent laws regarding mental health. Prior to July 2018, mental health commitment orders could be issued, if and only if, the patient was deemed an immediate threat to themselves or others. The revised law states that individuals can now be required to undergo treatment if they have previously fallen seriously ill due to noncompliance with a doctor’s instructions.
Though this modification is intended to be a step forward in the promotion of mental health facilities and to protect those affected by psychological disorders and those around them, the change has been met with mixed reviews. By adding another condition under which someone can be involuntarily hospitalized, some fear that the adjustment is actually a drawback in the mental health movement and an infringement on civil rights. This is a delicate subject as it is difficult to weigh a person’s need for treatment against their will to refuse the treatment.
Steps to further mental health advocacy and awareness are being taken on at a local level as well. Junior Abbie Gartland organized Drake University’s first annual Suicide Prevention Walk in March of this year. The purpose of the event was to raise awareness for the importance of mental health.
Gartland says she did a lot of work with suicide prevention and mental health awareness in high school, creating a program called Not Even One as a way to emphasize the gravity of such issues and to support those affected by mental illness.
Gartland noticed that Drake had little presence on the mental health scene, with few resources and opportunities to emphasize the importance of mental health. She organized the walk in the hopes of providing the Drake community with a new event to promote mental health and suicide prevention.
Gartland says she is planning another Suicide Prevention Walk this school year.
“There’s a huge stigma surrounding mental health, and there’s no easy way to treat it,” Gartland said. “This is a way to be the voice for the people who can’t speak for themselves.”
The Drake Counseling Center was unavailable for an interview due to being booked completely. Sources at the Counseling Center say that the staff currently consists of two full-time counselors in addition to one newly hired temporary counselor. A small staff can contribute to the counselors’ full schedule.
Many students utilize the center for differing reasons. According to the Drake Counseling center’s website, “Most students come to University Counseling Services for assistance with some identifiable concern. Some typical concerns include self-esteem issues, relationships, stress and anxiety, loneliness, transition to college, depression, eating disorders and alcohol or drug abuse.”
Some may argue Iowa has a long way to go in terms of mental health, but hope may not be lost yet. As long as awareness is being raised and knowledge is spread, people can have the power to promote the importance of mental health.