A Discussion on Mental Health
Updated: Dec 21, 2020
1 in 5 people experience mental illness in a given year
1 in 2 people experience mental illness during their lifetime
Everyone's treatment for their mental health condition, whether it is related to depression, anxiety, addiction, bipolar, schizophrenia or other conditions, is extremely individualized to a degree not seen in most other areas of medicine. This complexity in find the right mix of treatment options and staying with them could be a driver behind the fact that up to 50% of people with mental illness do not seek treatment. Try to put that in perspective. Imagine if 50% of people who had cancer or acute cardiac problems were not receiving treatment.
There are two primary reasons that people don't seek treatment when they should: cost and stigma.
Cost - Go to a doctor or a therapist once, and I can handle the cost. But therapy is not a one time deal. In order to show progress, we have to go repeatedly and even if co-pays are the only, the co-pays and cost of therapy can add up quick. Here are some tips on how to defray these costs:
Make sure to find a therapist that is in network with your insurance
Ask the therapist if they charge on a sliding scale, meaning to what you can afford. It is ok to call around and ask. You will be starting a long term process and it is better to be comfortable with the cost up font.
Check if there are any psychology training institutions in your area. This is typically a source of below market rate therapy.
Regarding cost, take public transit when possible. You also may be able to alternate your therapy sessions between in-person and online.
Stigma and Embarrassment - Sometimes people attach stigma to mental illness because they feel that it is something that they should be able to control. But can you control diabetes without insulin or glucagon? Can you get strong without lifting a thing or lose weight without proper diet and exercise? Simply, No. Our minds require attention. They direct us on what to do constantly, to the extent that we don't even realize how much of what we do is programmed from our experiences and genetic composition. Seeking help, whether in therapy, a group setting, with medication or some combination, illustrates that you care about living a life of your choosing. This is a strength, not something to be embarrassed about. You can actually turn the embarrassment around eventually and be an example to your friends of family. That can make them more likely to seek help if they need it. A terrific example of a win-win.
Other reasons include:
Trust - For many people, the idea of 'spilling your guts' to a stranger can be terrifying. The chances are, though, that you are not saying everything that is on your mind when you speak to family and friends because there are some things that you would rather keep private. It frankly is also not the responsibility of those closest to you to sort out your emotional health. There is no rule that says you have to stay with the therapist you first book with. If you have a session or two and don't trust them, move on to another one local to you. Try until you find the fit that works best for you.
Hopelessness - Why bother? You've had problems with depression, anxiety, addiction, etc, for decades. What is one person going to say that will change that? The reality is that you get one life. You are worth trying over and over again for until you find the solution, whether it be through more individual therapy or different group meetings. It takes a lifetime to grow up. We are never done. You can learn new things you didn't know about yourself constantly and the more of that you do, the closer you are to being healthy and complete emotionally.
Diagnosis - Diagnosis can be very challenging. Just like those of us who are not doctors would not know how to diagnose other medical conditions, trying to diagnose mental health issues on our own can be confusing and tiresome. For the best analysis, you should find a psychologist and/or psychiatrist who can provide the most accurate diagnosis. As a first step though, many people look for tools online. All tools are not created equal. Mental Health America, one of the most well regarded non-profits in the mental health space, has collected over 4 million screens through its online screening tool, which you can find by clicking on this link https://screening.mentalhealthamerica.net/screening-tools
If you made it to this website it is likely because you are in the initial stages of finding help. To provide an additional nudge to find the help that best suits you, I will leave you with this statistic: