Fairfield — When the second leading cause of death among American servicemen stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan is suicide, why is there no hue and cry?
When the three leading causes of death among teenagers are car accidents, homicide and suicide, why has this not caused a flood of concern?
As a part of Mental Illness Awareness Week, Dr. Daniel Koenigsberg, MD, winner of the 2012 Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, will explore those questions and others when he speaks on “The Challenges of Access to Care in 2012 and Beyond” at the First Church Congregational on Oct. 11.
“There are not only economic obstacles, there are cultural obstacles, legal obstacles and for sure there are obstacles in the health care system itself,” Koenigsberg says. Chief among the cultural obstacles are the stigma of mental illness and a lack of understanding that mental illnesses are truly medical conditions, he says.
“If it was malaria, there would major initiatives for treating the condition and doing preventative work, but that doesn’t happen with these conditions,” Koenigsberg says. “I think it’s a combination of stigma and lack of understanding of the impact of mental illness, in the sense that it’s still not seen on a par with other medical conditions, even if it’s a leading cause of death.”
Not to mention that America’s health care system is “procedure oriented,” so that, while heart surgeries costing upwards of $100,000 are readily reimbursed, veterans find reimbursement for therapy and medication to treat post traumatic stress disorder harder to come by, he says.
Koenigsberg will talk how current and projected changes in the delivery of healthcare services generally, and in mental health in particular, will affect the availability of care over time. And he will discuss the impact on the chronically mentally ill and the need for strong advocacy organizations.
The event is slated for 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. in Wakeman Hall of the First Church Congregational on 148 Beach Road. It is free and open to all, and light refreshments will be served. For more information call Judy at 203-650-3463.