Pelavin: This week marks the end of the High Holiday season, the time when we reflect on our choices from the past year and set new goals for ourselves; let us make mental health parity our national goal for the coming year.
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Washington, DC, October 8, 2006 – In observance of the 15th International Mental Health Day on October 10, 2006, Mark J. Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:
As we observe the 15th International Mental Health Day, we consider the significant steps that have been taken over these past years to provide care for people with mental health disorders, and we reflect on how far we still need to go. The era of institutionalism is thankfully over but people with these disorders still face stigma from society. Many who are in need of treatment worry about discrimination and stigmatization if their illnesses become public. Living in fear, 67 percent of adults and nearly 80 percent of children who need mental health services do not seek help.
This week marks the end of the High Holiday season, the time when we reflect on our choices from the past year and set new goals for ourselves; let us make mental health parity our national goal for the coming year. Mental health parity demands that mental health illnesses receive the same treatment as any other matters of physical health. At present, many health plans unfairly treat coverage for mental health benefits by imposing co-payments, deductibles or limits on outpatient visits that are more restrictive than those placed on physical illness. Were insurance companies to limit the treatment of asthma, diabetes, or cancer patients, we would be outraged. Mental health parity legislation, like “The Paul Wellstone Mental Health Equitable Treatment Act,” demands that mental ailments receive the same attention and treatment as physical ailments. This important legislation has languished in Congress for far too long; let us make its passage in the coming year a national priority.
Mental health is no longer an issue to be ignored. Four of the ten leading causes of disability in the United States are mental disorders. Significant depression will affect ten percent of Americans over the course of their lifetime. And as our nation continues to be at war, 19 percent of returning service members will be affected with post traumatic stress disorder and other related mental health problems. It is our duty as Americans to provide care and support to these men and women and their families.
Judaism has always stressed the importance of refuat ha-nefesh u'refuat haguf, a healing of the soul and the body. As we work to reform our health care system, to provide more and better care to all Americans, it is imperative that we do not forget to provide safety nets for those suffering from mental health disorders. Only by achieving this long-overdue goal can we ensure that all Americans have the ability to achieve their true potential.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the
Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 1800 Reform rabbis.