With an opioid epidemic brewing and a sharp spike in suicide rates across the US, equitable access to mental healthcare is more important than ever. The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, signed in 2008, intended to make mental health treatment as accessible as surgical/medical treatment. But what happened after it was passed?
Behavioral healthcare visits were still 6 times more likely to be out-of-network than medical/surgery visits in 2015. Out-of-network means that the health care provider does not have a contract with your health insurance company. This is more expensive than
Here is Just How Costly Psychiatric Treatment Can Be.
An initial consultation with a psychiatrist costs $500 on average, and each subsequent appointment costs at least $100 per hour, according to Angie’s List. Assuming that each appointment is an hour long and is attended once weekly, that’s at least $5700 per year. In three years, the total cost adds up to $16,300. Imagine having to pay $16,300 just to seek psychiatric treatment. Having to pay $16,000 for
Because many people simply cannot afford that treatment, some people don’t seek out the help they need. Skipping treatment has real consequences for the human body. From a rapid decline in mental health to unexplained chronic pain, untreated mental illness becomes a slippery slope towards serious consequences.
The message is clear: High treatment costs come with an even heftier toll: a worldwide pandemic of mental illness.
Why is this the case?
Because of low reimbursement rates, mental health care professionals are often unwilling to contract with insurers. Hence, there are drastically fewer in-network therapists to satisfy the needs of the patient population. What is left is a vast network of expensive, out-of-pocket mental health professionals, discouraging some from seeking treatment simply because some simply cannot afford it.
Rising costs, however, are only a fraction of the barrier patients face when seeking mental health treatment.
Cultural Perspectives of Mental Illness
According to one review done by the University of California San Francisco and Kaiser Permanente, mental illness is accompanied by “enormous personal suffering and socioeconomic costs.” Because many people still do not believe that mental illness exists, those who actually need treatment are denied by non-psychiatric physicians who do not believe their patients’ concerns and symptoms. In many cases, brain autopsies reveal nothing about certain mental diseases, so mental illness remains largely invisible.
Hence, mental illness continues to be a far-off, abstract concept to many, even when the symptoms are very much real. The refusal to acknowledge mental health concerns reflects a cultural lack of empathy around mental illness, as we continue to only be concerned with tangible as a whole–not the intangible. We need to move beyond that and consider that though mental illness is invisible to the eye, it being invisible does not make it any less real.
I find this denial towards the mentally ill disappointing. Some perceive themselves as being “compassionate enough” for saying a few comforting words. That, however, is not enough. We focus too much on what can be seen, whilst ignoring the unseen. It was common for Neurologists to do this towards the end of the 19th century, and we still do that today.
The Impact of this Widespread Denial
Experiencing a lack of sympathy often discourages people from seeking treatment. In fact, the disdain for mental illness implies that hiding our illness is actually better–when that is clearly not the case. The sad reality is that this delayed treatment worsens mental illness outcomes, as suggested by one study done by the University of British Columbia and the University of Calgary. Hence, those who are suffering are often left in the dark and without treatment. Life for those who suffer from untreated mental illnesses becomes a perplexing whirlpool of denial and hopelessness.
The Normalisation of Hurtful Language
It’s as if the balance of society’s focus towards the visible and invisible is skewed. It is common to replace medically accurate terms with offensive language. Words like “psycho” and “lunatic” need to go. These words only fill the gap between the unknown and satiate the unconscious bias. Using pejorative adjectives to describe one who is seemingly “scary” is unacceptable because these terms isolate and oversimplify. These words seek to villainize, not humanize. Calling a mentally ill person a word such as “psycho” is never productive.
People with mental health issues experience genuine and complex struggles that should not be oversimplified. These words are devoid of compassion and may discourage some from seeking treatment because these words focus not on the treatment,
We need to start breaking the silence and denial around mental illness, the “pandemic of the 21st century.”
Collin Wong is an Inflammatory Bowel Disease blogger and advocate on Collin’s IBD Chronicles. In the thick of the college application process, he decided to start a blog after realizing the lack of Asian Americans in disease blogging. He was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in 2006, and he started this blog as a way to give an Asian American perspective on IBD. Outside of blogging, he is a full time student who aspires to be a doctor one day.