For the past year (maybe even more) I have been struggling to get back into regular treatment with a therapist. It’s something I don’t talk about because it’s a frustrating process. I won’t waste much time on how hard it is to get access to healthcare. Seeing a regular doctor for a routine health issue can be a complicated process with numbers, carriers, referrals, approvals, co-pays and so on. Access to treatment for specific illnesses involves more complications. Without insurance it’s nearly impossible to afford treatment.
Beyond the issue of access there’s the problem of stigma associated with mental illness that can make reaching out for help incredibly difficult. I talk a bit about the weight of stigma is in my post Bouncing Back From The Blues.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) put together an excellent fact sheet on mental illness statistics in the United States and it’s saddening yet not surprising to me that “Only 41% of adults in the U.S. with a mental health condition received mental health services in the past year.” To put that percentage into perspective there are approximately 43.8 million people living with mental illness in the U.S., which breaks down to approximately 26 million people without care.
More than an individual’s mental health is at stake when mental illness goes untreated. Lack of treatment is a risk to physical health. NAMI notes, “Individuals living with serious mental illness face an increased risk of having chronic medical conditions. Adults in the U.S. living with serious mental illness die on average 25 years earlier than others, largely due to treatable medical conditions.” Lack of treatment can lead to traumatic outbursts and, “Mood disorders, including major depression, dysthymic disorder and bipolar disorder, are the third most common cause of hospitalization in the U.S. for both youth and adults aged 18–44.”
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. indicating that there are countless people out there without hope for the possibility of healing.
Let’s pretend you have great insurance and can get right to a mental health professional without a referral. Then there’s the chance that they might not be a good fit for you. There are innumerous horror stories about providers that fail to help. I heard something that really touched me in a podcast from Psych Central. Their guest Natasha Tracy recalled an incredibly painful comment that a provider made when she was feeling suicidal, “You’ve tried every treatment and they’ve all failed, what’s the point in you having a doctor?” For Natasha those words, “drove me into a place where I felt like suicide absolutely was the only option for me.” I haven’t been in the exact situation, but I have been in similar situations where I was searching for hope and help and instead was met with judgement and defeat.
Recently thanks to a random series of circumstances I have been linked with a therapist that wants to help and fits my needs. A friend begun treatment and loved it so much that she gave me their information. I had given up on finding a provider because each referral was for a clinic I could never make it to since they were only open during regular business hours, but my friend’s excitement about tackling her anxiety gave me the courage to reach out to the contact she gave me. I was impressed at how quickly they responded. Not only did they take my insurance, they had me setup for an appointment in less than a week. I’m still slightly apprehensive about the process since I’ve been burned before, but I know how helpful it is to have that support while I sort out my thoughts and behaviors and aim for a happier life.
If you’re out there struggling with your mental health you are not alone and there is hope, even if you can’t see it right now. Call the suicide line at 1-800-273-8255 if you’re struggling and need someone to talk to, they’re there to help. You matter.