According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), upwards of 59% of Americans will be diagnosed with a mental illness at some point in their lifetime. One in five Americans will experience a mental illness within a year. And, one out of every 25 Americans lives with a serious mental illness (major depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, as examples).
Additionally, and perhaps not surprising given the information above, nearly six out of ten Americans seek mental health services for themselves or someone they love.
Yet, despite these clear and evidence-based statistics, there are several major barriers that stand in the way of people obtaining help for a mental illness. A recent study demonstrated that lack of awareness, social stigma, cost, and limited access are some of the most prominent factors standing in the way of people pursuing mental health treatment.
How do we know these four areas significantly impede people from getting the help they need for mental health? While we will explore each in full detail, there are two particularly staggering conclusions connected with barriers to mental health treatment:
- The average delay between symptom onset and treatment is 11 years, (in the U.S.) according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), and,
- Worldwide, an estimated 400 million people are not receiving the treatment that they need for mental health disorders.
Left untreated, mental illnesses can lead to a higher risk of suicide, and impact the economy in billions of dollars lost to productivity, not to mention the devastation realized by the families and loved ones of those affected.
At Futures Recovery Healthcare, we understand the issues and challenges that stand in the way of people receiving the help they desperately deserve and need. No one should have to wait and worry about getting help for a mental health disorder. Our Futures Mental Health division tirelessly works together to help individuals and families find and secure treatment and support for a wide range of mental health disorders in a safe and judgment-free environment.
A Closer Look at Four Major Mental Health Treatment Barriers
For as much as mental health awareness and advocacy continues to build momentum, there are still formidable barriers to cross. And, unfortunately, it’s the individuals and families of people in need of mental health treatment that experience these challenges the most. Lack of awareness, social stigma, cost, and limited access are some of the most prominent factors standing in the way of people pursuing mental health treatment. Let’s take a closer look at how these obstacles impact access to much-needed mental health treatment and resources.
Lack of Awareness
First and foremost, many people do not understand the breadth of mental illnesses and disorders. And, the concept of having one or more mental illness at the same time (referred to as co-occurring disorder), can also be difficult to comprehend. Add to that, that some mental illnesses can be short or long-term, and it’s easy to see why fully, “getting” mental health can be confusing.
To help encourage awareness and provide more clarity, the CDC offers a preview of categorized mental illnesses as follows:
- Anxiety disorders (general, social, and panic disorders as well as phobias)
- Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Disruptive behavioral disorders (mostly originating in childhood)
- Depression and mood disorders
- Eating disorders (overeating, bulimia, anorexia, and more)
- Personality disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders
- Substance abuse disorders
This list is by no means a complete one—in fact, there are upwards of 200 types of classified mental illnesses and disorders, according to the American Psychiatric Association.
It’s also largely overlooked or unlearned that mental health is strongly linked to physical health. For example, people with depression have a higher risk of developing stroke, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. And, this can also occur in reverse—people with certain chronic health conditions can be more susceptible to developing mental illness.
Another common problem that comes with a lack of awareness and is exacerbated by negative social stigmas, can be how mental illness develops. Some people may be perceived as “weak” or “lacking self-control.” Many people with mental illness have little to no power to pull themselves out from under a disease that centers in the brain. And, it’s equally important to understand that mental illness can derive from a number of factors, including:
- Trauma (abuse, sexual assault, witnessing violence)
- Experiences connected with a chronic medical condition (such as diabetes or cancer)
- Substance use (alcohol, recreational or prescription drugs)
- Hereditary factors (chemical imbalances and/or genes that have been passed on genetically)
- Isolation and/or having few friends
And, again, simply not understanding facts such as the earlier mentioned one out of every 25 Americans living with a serious mental illness adds to the diminished awareness of exactly how many people are affected by, and need treatment for, mental health problems.
“You could control your mental illness…if you only tried.” Sadly, this is something that people with mental illness hear often. Stigmas such as this add to the shame and embarrassment felt by those struggling with a mental health disorder, so much so, in fact, that they will avoid seeking treatment for their condition.
How do we know this?
Because an estimated one-third of Americans (31%) have expressed concern about others judging them when revealing they have sought mental health services. Additionally, 21% of Americans intentionally lied to cover the fact they were seeking mental health services.
In effect, social stigma causes a harmful chain reaction that looks like this: Social stigma leads to avoiding or delaying needed mental health treatment. In turn, the mental illness goes untreated, often causing a person to remain unemployed because he/she does not have the support needed to perform a job. And, this often causes isolation, further plummeting of self-esteem, and additional negative consequences—such as self-medicating with alcohol and drugs, leading to co-occurring disorders.
When exploring why the cost is a barrier for those seeking mental health treatment, one may wonder if those with health insurance coverage are exempt. The short answer is no. In fact, studies confirm that 42% of Americans cited cost and poor insurance coverage as top barriers to accessing mental health care. Furthermore, one in four people living in the U.S. reported having to choose between opting for mental health treatment and paying for daily necessities.
The fact is that costs run high for those both insured and uninsured looking for mental health treatment solutions. One study revealed that out-of-pocket expenses more commonly exceeded upwards of $200 for mental therapists, psychiatric prescribers, and specialty care versus primary care for outpatient services.
Similarly, many psychiatric hospitals and residential mental health care options were typically out-of-network, as well as eliciting higher out-of-pocket expenses.
The reason for higher costs results from a combination of factors, which include:
- Insurers being incentivized to reduce the number of providers (to avoid paying sicker, people with more complicated conditions)
- Shortage of mental health professionals (especially in rural areas)
- Providers in more populated areas being unwilling to participate in insurance networks (only a little more than half of the psychiatrists in the U.S. take insurance, and fewer psychiatrists take Medicare and Medicaid compared with primary care providers)
- Psychiatrists who work independently and have smaller practices may not have the means to file necessary insurance paperwork
It probably makes sense, in light of the challenges associated with mental health treatment cost barriers, that there would also be limited options from which to choose. Hefty mental illness treatment costs pose a greater problem for people with lower levels of income. Individuals who live in more rural areas often do not have easily-accessible mental health services in proximity and are less likely to have information on where to find them elsewhere.
Approximately 74% of Americans do not believe that mental health services are accessible to everyone, with 47% expressing a view of the scarcity of options.
Eliminating Challenges and Getting Help
While eliminating barriers in mental health will take time, becoming acquainted with the four major challenges discussed here is an important first step. And, the first step can start with you. Whether you need help for a mental health disorder or a family member is in need of services and support, help is a click or phone call away.
And, please know that you are not alone!
Millions of Americans live with mental illness. If you have been searching for a safe and non-judgmental environment for yourself or a loved one, Futures Recovery Healthcare has a Mental Health program dedicated to males and females 18 and over struggling with a variety of mental health disorders.
We treat disorders such as depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, bipolar and related disorders by using clinical, medical and psychiatric interventions, and support. Our interdisciplinary team approach allows patients to receive holistic services and care.
Our goal is to help eliminate barriers to receiving mental health services and support, so you or your loved one can concentrate on healing, and be on to a life worth living.
You and your loved one can be on the way to recovery, happiness, and a more peaceful life. Contact us confidentially online or by phone at 866-804-2098.