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Why Do Americans With Mental Illness Die Sooner?

June 6th, 2018
By Zach Christiansen of The Bowling Law Firm, A Professional Law Corporation on Wednesday, June 6, 2018.

JACKSON, Mississippi. According to the New York Times, Americans with serious mental illnesses like Schizophrenia, depression, and bipolar disorder, die on average 15 to 30 years younger than Americans without serious mental illness. In fact, according to the research, Americans with serious mental illness die sooner in the U.S. than those with similar conditions who live in impoverished countries.

Why does this disparity exist? Many mental illness patients die from chronic disease like cancer and heart disease. For the large part, they are not dying because they are killing themselves or due to overdoses, though these causes do claim some lives. While some cases of suicide are preventable, according to Harvard University, some suicide cases simply show no warning signs. They happen “out of the blue.”

Not so for chronic disease observed in psychiatric patients. Diseases like cancer and heart disease and other chronic conditions require medical treatment. Individuals with mental illness are more likely to experience homelessness, poverty, and isolation. These patients may distrust doctors or may have difficulty making it to the doctor. Others simply cannot afford medical care. Unfortunately, even those who seek treatment often experience long delays in care, according to the New York Times.

When it comes to patients with mental health conditions, families must be strong advocates. This can be hard because patient privacy laws may make it difficult for family members to learn about their loved one’s condition or care. This can create situations where medical malpractice may not always be discovered. For example, patients with mental illness may not always be believed. A patient with depression might have her abdominal pain ignored by doctors, potentially delaying diagnosis. If mental illness patients complain of symptoms that could be indicative of cancer, they may struggle to receive treatment or their diagnosis could be delayed. Under normal conditions a patient can self-advocate, fight back, and even seek medical malpractice awards. However, with mentally ill patients, a strong family support system may be necessary to hold doctors accountable when things go wrong with a patient’s medical care.

According to the New York Times, patients with mental illness are less likely to receive care for diabetes, and they may not always be screened or treated for cancer. Sometimes a patient’s psychosis interferes with treatment, but sometimes it simply has to do with oversight on the part of a patient’s care team. Unfortunately, there is little in the way of research to making care better for patients suffering from mental illness.

If you are a caretaker or a family member of a person suffering from serious medical illness, advocating for your loved one can be overwhelming. However, if you believe that your loved one has suffered from medical malpractice, it is important to seek assistance as soon as possible. You and your family may be entitled to seek damages for lost wages, medical care, rehabilitative care, and pain and suffering. Visit the The Bowling Law Firm in Jackson, Mississippi today. Our medical malpractice lawyers may be able to help you. We can be found at

The Bowling Law Firm, A Professional Law Corporation

1615 Poydras Street, Suite 1050

New Orleans, Louisiana, 70112

Phone: (504) 586-5200

Toll Free: (504) 586-5200

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