Aside from lack of treatment, those with mental illness are often treated more like criminals than as patients. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof deals with this topic in his Sunday column entitled Inside a Mental Hospital Called Jail. He discusses the fact that more than half of those incarcerated in the United States have documented and diagnosed mental illness, and that instead of offering long term care, the system offers short term incarceration. For some, committing petty crimes is the only way they can receive treatment. Without health insurance mental illness goes untreated, and so they commit crime in order to gain access to prison hospital treatment and prescription medication.
This is another discrepancy with the mental health care system. If you were to go to the emergency room with an obvious physical illness or injury you cannot be turned away due to lack of insurance, the same is not necessarily true with one suffering from an obvious mental illness; more often than not the police rather than medical professionals are called in to deal with the "problem." According to Thomas Dart the Cook County sheriff the system is "criminalizing mental illness." He argues that on a daily basis he receives people suffering from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, and psychotic disorders... these people need long term treatment, not repeditive short term incarceration.
Click Here to read Nicholas Kristof's Sunday Column.