Arnold Kling  

Mental Health

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From an editorial in the Seattle Times:


Montana, for example, faces predictions of rapidly rising prison populations; Gov. Brian Schweitzer notes that 93 percent of the state's prisoners are incarcerated in part because of alcohol and drug addiction and 50 percent because of a mental illness.

Every once in a while, I am asked by somebody what I would do to eliminate poverty in America. The first thing that pops into my head is the topic of mental health.


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CATEGORIES: Income Distribution



COMMENTS (10 to date)
Caliban Darklock writes:

I have worked alongside plenty of drunk, stoned, and crazy people. There is no good reason why they can't have and keep jobs, except that the public do not expect them to do so. In professional salaried positions, these people get fired simply because they are drunk, stoned, or crazy. In the unskilled and low-skilled labor market, they're the norm.

Matt writes:

I am right in the middle of an economy based on two things: 1) Addiction 2) The high cost of government.

The neighborhood in which I am stuck is completely underground, a totally small government libertarian comnmunity of about 1,000. We cannot do any legitimate business unless we promise a 10 grand fee up front to pay for unlimited medical insurance for county or city workers.

The city line is 1/4 a mile north and moving south. The city and county workers are in a fight to take the very last dime of these poor people around me. The city and county have a 2 billion dollar deficit because of government worker influence in politics.

And, yes, much of this community is addicted. Can you blame them?

cg writes:

Are we saying that mental illness and addiction go hand in hand? And if so does mental illness lead to addiction or visa versa?

tc writes:

Every once in a while, I am asked by somebody what I would do to eliminate poverty in America. The first thing that pops into my head is the topic of mental health.

Err, what do you mean by that? Are you saying that poverty can't be eliminated because of mental health, or that we should fix mental health to eliminate poverty?

And doesn't Bryan Caplan always say he doesn't believe in mental illness?

chuck.chillout writes:

Every once in a while, I am asked by somebody what I would do to eliminate poverty in America. The first thing that pops into my head is the topic of mental health.

Do you have, like, some evidence? Or is this just your gut instinct?

Are you saying that the South Bronx or Anacostia or South LA or Appalachia is particularly prone to mental illness? That can't be right. Mental illness should be (roughly) as prevalent in Beverly Hills as Mississippi.

If you really wanted to end poverty in the United States, you'd invest heavily in early childhood intervention. These interventions would get children out of the dysfunctional homes of the ghetto; get 'em fed, teach them social skills, and (hopefully) make them amenable to learning. More realistically, programs that include in-home visitation are best.

After that, add a little bit of school choice, decelerate the Drug War, and hope to Allah that these kids stay in school and out of jail long enough for our investment in Human Capital to pay the heck off.

Heather writes:

From the statistics I have seen in Minnesota, where we have had a couple of initiatives to end homelessness, about half of the people who are homeless have some type of severe mental illness. The difficult thing in dealing with these people is that many of them don't want to be treated and cannot be forced into treatment, but without it, they will continue to be homeless. In interviews with many of the people, which our local paper, the Star Tribune, has conducted, many of the people don't want to change and like their lifestyle. If this is the case, I don't see how you end poverty.

Robert Speirs writes:

If you define mental illness as being unable to do what is necessary to support oneself, mental illness and poverty aren't just related, they'r exactly the same thing. But that doesn't help figure out how to 'solve' them.
And I thought the main problem for poor children these days was obesity. "Early childhood intervention" is a proven failure, after decades of government tyranny and billions of wasted dollars.

true dough writes:

AK makes a great point.

I'm an econ student and a volunteer at a housing/ drop-in center for the homeless. The centre is ran largely by social workers and appears to be the only centre in my city that refuses to close its doors on anyone (this is really important). Elsewhere in the city, the homeless jump from one government-funded agency to the next (often because they act out and get barred). The majority of homeless individuals that I know seem to have a mental illness. Others are addicts and/or independent/rebellious youth. The greatest barrier that many of the homeless seem to face is that they have a mental illness that goes unrecognized and untreated. With some personal attention, we see, again and again, the hardest shells turn soft and their willingness to contribute to society increases (although it's not always this simple).

Cortney writes:

I somewhat agree with Robert S.
Mental Illness can be defined as being unable to do what is necessary to support oneself. Drug or alcohol can have the same effect on you, but just because someone is "high" or "drunk" doesn't make them mentally ill.

Chuck.Chillout writes:

Robert Spiers says:

"Early childhood intervention" is a proven failure, after decades of government tyranny and billions of wasted dollars.

Wow, Robert. I guess that just saying it makes it so. Or did you have to go back and refer to the little libertarian book of dogma?

Look, I'm a libertarian too. But I still think we need to look at evidence and not tenets of faith. And the idea that government-sponsored breakfast program and home visitation qualifies as "tyranny" gives libertarians a bad name, making us look hysterical and unmoored from reality. (If that's tyranny, what's North Korea? Zimbabwe? Or Sweden?)

Here's Nobel Laureate UChicago economist James Heckman—an erstwhile Reason contributor—on early childhood education.

Educate yourself.

[Chuck.Chillout: Your posting privileges have been suspended for supplying false email addresses, ongoing rudeness, and a variety of other reasons. You can email us at webmaster@econlib.org if you'd like to discuss the matter.--Econlib Editor]

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