The US is still in a state of emergency for Covid-19 and monkeypox. However, the country has another longstanding and quickly worsening public health concern—mental health. According to mentalhealth.gov, about 20 percent of American adults experienced a mental health issue in 2020. Nearly 1 in 20 Americans live with a severe mental illness.
Perhaps the most severe and heartbreaking consequence of mental illness is a patient’s decision to end his or her own life. There were over twice as many suicides than homicides in 2020. Tragically, what motivates someone to commit suicide remains a mystery. Some choose to do so after enduring extreme hardship, trauma, or loss. In contrast, others commit the act while outwardly appearing to live happy and fulfilling lives.
With suicide rates steadily increasing since the pandemic, many senators and health-related organizations recently sent a message of concern to President Biden urging him to provide more federal funds for mental health. He did. As part of the lavish Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the Biden Administration provided nearly $300 million in support for certified community behavioral health clinics, with another $15 million to be distributed in 2023.
Despite considerable funds and federal partnerships to reduce suicide rates, many professional organizations are still urging the President to declare a national public health emergency and take further steps. One possible and troublesome option could be to increase the amount of lithium in public drinking water.
Why? Historically, lithium has been used to treat a variety of mental illnesses. Some studies find that higher amounts of lithium in the ground and drinking water are linked to lower rates of suicide and mental illness. Although most research examines how natural amounts of lithium in water affect mental health, some medical professionals propose standardizing higher amounts of lithium in public drinking water could be used to combat public mental health concerns. It’s been widely considered in Britain. This idea might also gain traction here, considering the already considerably high amounts of lithium in water across much of the US.