The month of May is Mental Health Month, which began in 1949 to raise awareness of mental health conditions and mental wellness. Additionally, this week is Children's Mental Health Awareness Week, highlighting the importance of positive mental health and its necessity to children's health development. Over 15 million children in the United States have mental disorders, yet many continue to miss out on life-changing treatments due to misinformation, shame, and lack of awareness.
Nationwide, mental health problems affect one in five children and adolescents. In Florida alone, nearly four million adults and two million children need mental health services. Additionally, half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the shocking delay between the onset of mental illness and treatment is, on average, 8 to 10 years. Mental health treatments prove to have an 80 percent success rate. It is therefore an outrage that 79 percent of children and teenagers with mental health disorders currently do not receive mental health care. If we are to revive hope for those with mental health challenges, we must advocate for the deliverance of accessible, affordable services and support for children and their families.
Due to many Americans' inability to access mental health treatments and lack of awareness on the issue, recent indirect costs of mental health illnesses have skyrocketed and have affected numerous areas, including education, state agencies and economies, society, and criminal justice systems. Students with a mental illness have a dropout rate of approximately 50 percent, the highest rate of any disability group. Those with mental illnesses frequently become victims of human rights violations and discrimination. Additionally, individuals with mental illness in Florida jails and prisons outnumber those in state mental hospitals by nearly 5 to 1. In Florida in 2011, the estimated lost earnings reached $26.1 billion, with a lost productivity of $21.8 billion, and the estimated mortality costs were as high as $4.3 billion. In 2011, experts demonstrated the large return Florida's taxpayers receive from investing in treatment services due to reductions in expensive hospital visits and jail admissions when quality, low-cost mental health treatment alternatives are available.
Unfortunately, Republicans in Congress are currently considering reducing funding for mental health treatment services in order to close the budget gap. This is not acceptable. Please know that I strongly oppose cuts to mental health prevention and treatment programs. This is why I sent a letter last month to the Appropriations Committee requesting to fund the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at the President's requested levels. In addition, I am an original cosponsor of a resolution recognizing May 2012 as Mental Health Month. I will continue to work to increase health care affordability, access, and quality at home in my Congressional district and for our nation as a whole. Please join me as we continue to promote positive youth development and recovery through children's mental health initiatives. I encourage my constituents to join their communities in observing Mental Health Month and Children's Mental Health Awareness Week to help all individuals affected by mental health issues thrive in their communities. Together, we can and must begin to break the stigma surrounding mental health in our nation.