When people feel seriously ill or have suffered an injury, they seek professional medical care. Their signs and symptoms are addressed, and an appropriate treatment is administered. Then, ideally, they recover and continue on with life. When someone has a mental health issue, however, the process is often not nearly as cut and dry. This is in part due to the barriers in place within our health care system and society. Below is a brief exploration into a few of the barriers people commonly face when seeking and receiving treatment for afflictions of the mind.
Did you know one in five American adults has experienced a mental health issue at some point in life? What’s more, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also reports one in 20 Americans is living with a serious mental illness. These hardships range in severity and include diagnoses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or major depression. It’s estimated that 27 million Americans are going without therapy, medication or even an official diagnosis due to a barrier in their lives preventing them from receiving care.
One highly prevalent barrier is the financial cost of treatment. For instance, traditional 60-minute therapy sessions typically run $65 to $250 for those with or without insurance. Such costs are magnified with more severe diagnoses, as they carry heavier lifetime cost burdens. In fact, individuals suffering from major depression may spend an average of $10,836 on health costs a year.
Aside from costs, there is the social stigma. The subject of many studies, these mental illness-associated stigmas often prevent people from discussing their problems openly and accessing treatment. They may have feelings of embarrassment or shame associated with needing support and may even fear it will affect their relationships, reputation or job status. Such feelings may worsen symptoms, making it less likely for the individual to get treatment and recover.
Another significant barrier is the ability to enlist the services of a culturally responsive provider. This owes to the fact that racial and ethnic populations only represent one-sixth of psychologists, despite these communities representing close to 40% of the U.S. population. A lack of culturally responsive care and cultural competence among these providers also affects communication, as well as the comfort and encouragement the patient feels talking with the professional.
A further example of this is a language barrier. Therapy and other means of care for mental health rely heavily on verbal communication and, although the United States has a diverse population speaking various languages, non-English speaking individuals often cannot find providers fluent in their language. This barrier could lead to a delay in therapeutic treatment, misdiagnosis and inadequate care.
For further information on the therapeutic barriers within mental health care and overcoming them, please see the accompanying resource.
Guide created by AnswerSuite