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America's Failing Mental Health System: Families Struggle to Find Quality Care

Posted: December 21, 2012 |   Comments

When Paul Raeburn needed immediate help for his suicidal son, he had few good options. The teen had threatened to sit on nearby railroad tracks until a train came. Even though Raeburn, a leading health and science writer, was in a position to know more about the best available mental health services and treatment options for his son than most, when a crisis hit, he felt he only had one choice: to call the police and risk that his child would wind up incarcerated rather than hospitalized.

"I tried to physically restrain him, but that's not easy with a teenager," Raeburn says, "I had no other option and this doesn't seem like an ideal situation to take care of our sick kids."

While it's not clear whether mental illness - alone or in combination with a developmental disorder - played any role in the devastating tragedy in Newtown, CT, the shootings have triggered a much-needed discussion about how we care for psychiatric patients. The debate has thrown a harsh light on the piecemeal nature of America's mental health system, which is leaving too many children and young adults, like Raeburn's son, without the resources they need.

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