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Mark's Story

Mark’s Story


On June 7, 2015 Mark ended his life; he was 30 years old. The horror of mental illness is never more implicit than when your son is removed from your home by the Medical Examiner’s Office.  Reality is never more clear than when your brother, brother-in-law, and stepson remove blood soaked bedding, mattress, and carpet from your son’s room. Finality of death is never more acute than when final arrangements are made at a funeral home to honor your son’s life.  Pain is never more crushing when you realize your son is not coming back home.

Mark suffered from severe bipolar disorder, which eventually took his life.  It is difficult to describe his mental illness without using terms of hopelessness, helplessness, guilt, shame, self-loathing, severe depression, anger, and insignificance of life.  For Mark, death was always an option, and he eventually chose death because he would rather die than continue in his tortured life.  Mark did not give up; he was exhausted from fighting his bipolar disorder.  Mark’s psychiatrist described bipolar disorder as living with postpartum depression every day of your life.  The disease creates an exaggerated irrational distortion of internal feelings which intensely distort cognitive associations and beliefs often rendering the patient incapable of maintaining a functioning life.   

The purpose of Mark’s story is to bring to light the challenges associated with mental health care in Arizona, and request interested parties to attend an informative event dedicated to mental health.    Community First is holding the Second Annual Community Mental Health and Emergency Preparedness Fair from 10 am to 1 pm on September 19, 2015 at Tri-City Baptist Church at 2211 W. Germann Rd., Chandler AZ.  I will conduct a panel discussion concerning mental health care in Arizona.

Challenges Associated to Mental Health Issues in Arizona:

During 2015 Mental Health America (MHA), formerly known as the National Mental Health Association published Parity or Disparity: The State of Mental Health in America. The association was founded in 1909 and continues to be a guiding light for mental health treatment in the United States.  Contributors to the study include the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality (CBHSQ), Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative (CAHMI), Strategic Policy Analyst Theresa Nguyen, and many other mental health experts.  Their findings are summarized below concerning Arizona’s contribution toward mental health treatment and comparison to the other 49 States, and Washington D.C. 

Overall Ranking for Mental Health Care and Access in the United States Based on 15 Measures:

According to research, 42.5 million Americans (18.19%) suffer from mental illness, and Tufts University places the percentage of mental health subjects in the U.S. at 25%.  MHA provides the listed statistical data concerning Arizona. Excluded from the study were the homeless who do not stay in shelters, active duty military personnel, and subjects in jails or prison.    

·        Arizona is rated 51 of 51 for overall care for mental illness.

·        Arizona is rated 50th for states with the highest prevalence of mental illness and lowest rates of access to care for adults.

·        Arizona is rated 46th for states with the highest prevalence of mental illness and lowest rates of access to care for youth.  

·        The population of mentally ill in Arizona faces significant barriers to recovery. 

·        More than 900,000 people in Arizona suffer from a form of any mental illness, which is 18.19% of the total population.  According to the 2010 Arizona Health Special Issue prepared by Arizona State University, more than 1,000,000 Arizonans were diagnosed as bipolar, having an anxiety disorder, or clinical depression.   

·        More than 435,000 (9.09%) of the adult population in Arizona are dependent or abuse illegal drugs or alcohol. 

·        More than 193,000 (4%) adults in Arizona had serious thoughts of suicide. 

·        More than 143,570 (10%) of children in Arizona are diagnosed with Emotional Behavioral developmental Issues. 

·        More than 40,000 (7.5%) of Arizona youth are dependent or abuse illicit drugs or alcohol. 

·        Ten percent of Arizona youth have attempted suicide. 

·         Service providers for SMI patients in Maricopa County generally fall under the umbrella of AHCCCS and Magellan.  Maricopa County served 20,257 patients with SMI, expending $11,232.52 per capita (Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) FY 2013 Annual Report).

The Treatment Advocacy Center published More Mentally Ill Persons are in Jails and Prisons than Hospitals: A Survey of the States in 2010 provides significant detail concerning the criminalization of mental illness in America, the state of mental health treatment, and information regarding Arizona’s attempt to meet the needs of the Arizona population.  The findings are provided below. 

·        In the United States there are now more than three times more seriously mentally ill persons in jails and prisons than in hospitals. 

·        Twenty-four percent of inmates in jails and prisons have a serious mental illness (SMI). In 1983, only 6.4% of the prison and jail population were SMI. 

·        Forty percent of individuals with serious mental illness have been in jail or prison at some time in their lives.   

·        In 1955 there was one psychiatric bed for every 300 Americans.  In 2005 there was one psychiatric bed for every 3,000 Americans. 

·        Our current behavioral health model in the United States now parallels the conditions of the 1840s by putting large numbers of mentally ill persons back into jails and prisons. 

·        In Arizona and Nevada, there are 10 times more mentally ill persons in jail and prison than in hospitals.  Arizona and Nevada are by far behind the times in dealing with mental illness and their ranking is at 49 and 50 across the United States.   

·        Arizona allocates a significant amount of budget to meet the needs of the mentally ill, but continues to provide inadequate care, which is evidenced in Arizona’s 51 of 51 rating in the United States for overall care of the mentally ill.  


Arizona continues to fail the residents of Arizona in providing adequate care for the mentally ill; a position sustained since the 1960s. In 2015, Arizona ranked 51 of 51 in the United States for overall care for mental illness in the United States (MHA, 2015), and the State of Arizona settled a class action law suit against Arizona for failure to provide adequate services for the SMI in 2014.  The case originates from 1981. Interestingly, Arizona is at the top of the list for allocation of monies toward mental health care, but continues to miss the mark in providing adequate treatment for the SMI population – a problem similar to the educational system in Arizona.  We spend more money without improving the system.  Either Arizona is unable to locate the right personnel having the expertise to fix the problem, or is placating the public by spending more money gained through taxation to appear they are attempting to address this challenge.  Either way, the results remain constant; unacceptable. Mark was born and resided in Arizona.   

Dr. Tim Hampton, DM  

Care Inc.   

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