Top Five Barriers to Mental Health Treatment

Today, one in five people in the United States experience a mental health condition which is equivalent to approximately 40 million Americans, but only 41% of adults with a mental health condition actually receive treatment. For Mental Health Awareness Month, King’s University and Social Work Helper are working together to help raise awareness on mental health barriers and challenges many individuals face when contemplating mental health treatment.

When increased concerns about a mental health condition arise, friends, family and/or Google are often the first to be consulted. Varying responses from getting counseling to hospitalization may be suggested as the potential solution, but what roadblocks may be encountered before an intervention can be decided? There are many things to consider on the journey to mental wellness, but there are also several pitfalls to look out for.

1. Stigma

The unfortunate truth is that most people are terrified of being discriminated against in their employment or unjustly targeted by the police because of their mental health status. According to current data, individuals with a mental health condition are more likely to encounter law enforcement than receive professional treatment. Too often, the public’s education on mental illness is learned from misrepresented portrayals of mentally ill individuals as violent criminals by the media.

2. Refusal

Adult patients have the right to refuse treatment. This may become a major barrier and challenge for parents with adult children who need treatment. Current laws require an individual to be a danger to themselves or third party in order to qualify for an involuntary committal. Typically, commitment of a mental ill individual is avoided unless a determination has been made declaring them to be dangerous. Unfortunately, loved ones of an individual struggling with mental illness who have refused treatment have very limited options available to them.

3. Financial

The rising cost of prescription drugs, high co-pays and deductibles in addition to limited and uncovered mental health services may be the deciding factor in whether someone seeks treatment. According to a 2011 study in the journal Health Affairs, the United States spent 113 billion dollars on mental health treatment which was only 5.6% of national physical health-care related spending. Most importantly, the majority of those dollars went to prescription drug costs as the primary treatment for the mental health condition. Even though the Affordable Care Act has pushed the uninsured rate to an all time low, approximately 27.3 million Americans still are without insurance. Also, in surveys measuring the effectiveness of the ACA, responses suggest high deductibles and out of pocket costs still remain the biggest barrier preventing individuals from seeking mental health treatment.

4. Intervention

Some people may give up on pursuing treatment because they don’t believe therapy is working for them. Could it be possible the right type of therapy was not introduced to improve their mental health needs? It could happen. There may be several therapists and/or several medications tried before finding the right combination to yield the best results. When it comes to mental health treatment, there is no one size fits all treatment, and any wellness plan must be tailored to fit the needs of the individual seeking treatment in order to help them achieve the best outcomes. Before choosing a counselor or therapist, there are many factors to consider before making a decision such as their cultural background, spiritual philosophy, and competencies in order to increase the odds of a better fit.

5. Access

Even if the four previous mentioned barriers could be prevented, individuals experiencing a mental health crisis may be wait listed before they can get access to a mental health provider. According to U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration, 60% of Americans live in a mental health provider shortage area because the mental healthcare system does not have enough providers to meet current demand. There are approximately 1,000 patients for every 1 provider, and the US needs to add approximately 10,000 providers by 2025 in order to make pace with the growing demand for services.

Licensed counselors, clinical social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists are desperately needed to begin closing the treatment area shortage gap. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), “The APA Education Government Relations Office (GRO) continues to seek increased federal support for psychology education and training, particularly for psychologists who work with underserved populations” which includes a loan repayment option for early career psychologists. For more information on earning a psychology degree, visit King’s University Bachelor’s of Psychology Program.

Four Tips for Dealing With Mental Health Needs in College

CAMBRIDGE, MA, USA - NOVEMBER 2, 2013: Harvard Yard, old heart of Harvard University campus, on a beautiful Fall day in Cambridge, MA, USA on November 2, 2013.
Photo Credit: Harvard University

Utilization of mental health services on college campuses have been increasing quickly each year, and college campuses are increasing mental health services in an effort to meeting the needs of students. A recent study found that 1 out of every 12 college students has written out a suicide plan.

Due to the increase in federal funding, programs that focus on eliminating suicide, reducing stigma, and bringing awareness of mental health issues have been placed in middle school, high school, and colleges throughout the country.

On many college campuses, counseling services have been improved in order to cater to students’ schedules and expand the utilization of therapy by hiring more counselors and extending the hours. Being a college student is already difficult and adding a mental health issue can make it seem impossible. Here are some tips to help you get through another semester.

1. Learn about the resources offered on campus

Many students with mental health needs don’t know that their campus has resources that can help them. Before you start classes it would be helpful to set up services at the Counseling Center and Disability Center. College offers accommodations that could help you get through a tough semester and really set you up to succeed despite any challenges you may face. Some accommodations that may be offered are extended deadlines, a quiet/private place to take exams, and more.

2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Due to stigma, many people feel afraid or even ashamed to reach out for help. Just like going to the doctor for a physical illness, mental health needs should be dealt with in the same manner. There are people out there to help and the first step is to ask. Identify and locate your University’s Student Health and Wellness Center who can assist you or help provide you with information to assist someone you care about.

3. Stay connected on campus.

It’s very important to make connections on campus. Not only will you make friends, but it will also provide you with a support system on campus. Take a look at the clubs and events held on campus and join a few. Students who are a part of social life at their school tend to do better and cultivate solidarity in their lives.

4. Create a self care plan.

The most important of these tips to maintaining mental health during school is to create your own self care plan. These are your own steps, resources, and supports that can help you get through tough times. This may include remembering to take your medication every day, picking up yoga, going to a Zumba class each week, and/or eating healthy foods. Self care is such a vital part of mental well being. Even taking 10 mins at the end of each day to relax can help you feel so much better.

The Importance of Mental Health Awareness

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Did you know that 1 in 4 American people suffer a mental illness?  That is an estimate of 56% of the population[2].  Creating awareness is a difficult task [5].  We make sure to fill one day or month with the “green ribbon.”  But do we really know what the green ribbon means? When there is awareness about mental health it eases identification and early treatment for these individuals [4].  These individuals could be our father, mother, son, daughter, neighbor, friend, or it could be ourselves.  Early intervention can help our loved one receive appropriate care.  As a result, recovery is faster [4].

If a loved one is experiencing some issues and you know for fact they need to see a professional, do you know how to access the service?  We found that out of 176 people, 50% did no access mental health services because they were unaware of how to [2].  Lack of access can be due to misinformation about where to go [2]. Mental illness cannot be treated by simple desire, treatment is necessary [4].  We found that in many cases people may not access these services because it is difficult due to cultural or language barriers [2].

Awareness also eliminates stigma for these people.  If we are aware of their limitations and strengths, stigma may disappear.  Let’s just say, your daughter was just diagnosed bipolar disorder.  Would you like those around you comment, “she is crazy, lock her up.” Stigma refers to the opinions and thoughts of the community [3]. Stigma shames the mentally ill.  Creates a community where minds are closed off and rejects acceptance of those who are “different.” Attitudes and behaviors move a community into either a positive or negative trend.  If there is a negative trend than the implications may cause a combination of denial and hatred [3].

Awareness can also create new improvements for the mentally ill. As there is more demand from the public, it can produce a flow of attention.  This attention can eventually result in great changes for the mentally ill.  It can lead to improvements on policy, research, and service development [6].  Let’s make this issue a priority because we have a high demand.  If we raise more awareness, the demands may increase and can result in more funding for our needs.

In addition, there is a great misconception for the mentally ill. Many think these people are lazy or just making it up.  There is also the attitude that these people are either crazy, possessed by demons, violent, out of control and unsafe.  These are negative labels that have been attached due to the lack of awareness.  Raising awareness can reduce misconceptions.  Imagine your daughter with bipolar disorder being described by these words.  How would this make you feel?  Why continue to live in a community where there is judgment, if we could promote awareness on the issue.

Mental health awareness should not only be for a day or two or even a month.  We must be informed about it because it can easily happen to someone close to us.  Community awareness for mental health reduces stigma. Mental health awareness increases the chances for early intervention, which can result in a fast recovery.  Awareness reduces negative adjectives that have been set to describe our people with a metal illness.

By raising awareness, mental health can now be seen as an illness.  These illnesses can be managed by treatment.  We should not isolate mental illness from the physical heath conditions, such as diabetes, blood pressure, or cancer [1].

Awareness is a form of education.  The more you know, the more power you have.  Knowledge is power.  This power can cause a positive effect in our community.  Awareness is key for understanding what mental health is and how families can receive the help they need. Public knowledge is important in accessing community resources.  Lack of awareness of mental health is not just “their” problem, it is our problem as a community.

Awareness does not just end here. Attend health fairs, resource fairs, read more, listen to it.  You could even get more information about the resources and services offered in Imperial Valley.  And overall pass it on.  Talk to a someone about this article and ask them to share it with someone else.  Let’s start a domino effect for awareness on mental health. Don’t be scared to talk about it. It’s hard work, but the power to reach and teach the community is well worth it [5].

References:

[1] Aferrigno. “What one update to national mental health policy would you like to see instituted in the next five years, and why?” IMHRO. N.D.Web. 22 July 2015.

 [2] Gonzalez, C. “Innovation Work Plan County Certification.” Imperial. 4 Nov 2014.  Web. 21 July 2015.

[3] Mental Health News. “Mental/Behavioral Health” Network of Care. N.D. Web. 22 July 2015.

[4] NAMI. “What is Mental Illness: Mental Illness Facts.” NAMI. N.D. Web. 21 July 2015.

[5] Serani, D. “The Importance of Health Awareness Days.” Psychology Today. 6 Oct 2013. Web. 20 July 2015.

[6] World Health Organization. “Advocacy for Mental Health.” WHO. 2003. Web. 21 July 2015.

Authors: 

Urias, Aday, BSW & MSW Student

Fuentes, Dora, BSW & MSW Student

Acosta, Guadalupe, BSW & MSW Student

Mental Health Advocacy Must Remain A Top Priority

Heading

As of 2013, May is officially mental health month which was set in motion by President Obama, and it has made a huge impact in only a couple of years. This movement has caused other public figures to jump on board to help raise awareness to combat the stigmas associated with seeking treatment. Advocating for mental health awareness is a mindset that we all should aspire to follow.

Although mental health awareness month is officially over, we must be diligent throughout the year in creating awareness on mental illness. Mental health stigmas are a real problem, and they still exist all over the world. In America alone, there are about 8 million people suffering from severe mental illnesses and only around half of those are treated.

But why should we fight these mental health stigmas?

Fear of discrimination and the attached stigmas often keep sufferers and their families from facing their mental health problems. This deters them from seeking help, which is very problematic. Mental health is just as important as physical health.  Additionally, access to mental health treatment and insurance coverage can also be a barrier to seeking treatment. Mental health treatment should be viewed similarly to how physical ailments are addressed because the two are often times entwined.

Fortunately, as awareness of mental health issues spreads and stigmas recede, more and more medical professionals are choosing careers in mental health. We are learning more about the benefits of helping people care for their mental health, including longer life expectancy, increased productivity, improved financial stability, and happier personal lives. As a result, public and private organizations are recognizing the importance of providing access to affordable mental health care. In the U.S., this progress is evident in the inclusion of mental health care coverage requirements in the Affordable Care Act. Read More

What can we do to combat these backwards beliefs?

Simply put, we need to advocate for change. If someone refers to a person with a mental illness as ‘crazy’ or ‘insane’ it is completely justifiable to point out that it is not alright to use such shaming language. It is important to question how using those kinds of harsh words can segue into negativity and generalizations that are frankly not true.

Online communities such as BringChange2Mind and StigmaFighters offer those struggling with mental problems a judgment-free outlet for taking the steps towards acceptance of themselves and overall wellness. Although May is over, advocating for mental health equality must remain a top priority. We all deserve to live happily and feel healthy.

Be a voice of reason by advocating mental health all year-long and you will make the world a much better place for literally millions.

The Persistent Stigma of Substance Use Disorders

“Stigma is a five dollar word for a two dollar concept. It’s prejudice.”

Stigma, a set of negative stereotypes tied to behavioral health conditions, is not a new problem. Results of a recent survey suggest that views may be changing when it comes to mental illness. Advocacy efforts are getting results, and the public is beginning to recognize that mental illness is, in fact, a health condition.

We need a similar evolution to start when it comes to substance use disorders. Public perception of what it means to be addicted hasn’t shifted significantly. This is a problem.

In a study of Americans conducted by Johns Hopkins University, only 22% of people surveyed were willing to work closely with someone suffering from drug addiction, yet 62% were willing to work closely with someone suffering from mental illness.

Every person struggling to manage a substance use disorder, and every family stigmatized while supporting a loved one, are part of this broader landscape. Our current culture of stigma creates resistance to funding prevention and treatment. Belief that persons with substance use disorders are immoral, not ill, reduces support for behavioral health-centered policy.

Funding for treatment of substance use disorders isn’t commensurate with the scope of the problem. If substance use were recognized by the public as a health issue, it’s likely that prevention would be a higher priority.

We must help each other, and our communities, reshape the distorted image of substance use disorder as criminal and deviant. A person with a substance use disorder remains a person first. Examples of person-first language for substance use are included in this chart shared by Michael Botticelli, Director of Office of National Drug Control Policy. Note: Mr. Botticelli is himself a person in long-term recovery.

Language for addiction

Of course, stigma-free language is only one step and changing a stereotype takes time. We should see this as part of the process of removing structural roadblocks to health. As we break the persistent stigma that clings to substance use disorders, we’ll turn the focus instead to very real opportunities that exist for health and recovery.

Top Three Barriers to Quality Treatment for Mental Illness

Silver Linings Playbook Movie Poster-Weinstein Company
Silver Linings Playbook Movie Poster-Weinstein Company

In 2012 when Silver Linings Playbook was released, Social Work Helper examined how lack of financial resources and health insurance would have produced an entirely different outcome for the characters in the movie.

The movie utilized a holistic approach between the court system, hospital, therapist, and family in providing treatment options for Pat which allowed him to find his silver lining.  Imagine if Pat was homeless and without healthcare while dealing with pending charges he had in the movie? It would have been another episode of Cops instead of an uplifting movie about overcoming challenges due to mental illness. Read Full Article

In today’s society, mental illness is becoming more romanticized in the media. Many media outlets go as far as to embellish the truth about how mental illness really impacts the lives of those suffering from it. Often, the media fails to broadcast the barriers that are present that prevents certain social groups from obtaining quality treatment for their mental illness. I am going to tell you about what I find to be the top three barriers and how we can work together to break them.

Stigma

About 2 out of 3 people with mental illness never get any form of professional treatment. Stigma is the number one barrier that enables people from getting the help they deserve. Society makes people feel like they are weak for asking for help.  The social groups that suffer from mental health stigma the most are men, minorities, and those who are told they need to “be strong”. Stigma makes people feel ashamed and hopeless. Based on the stigma on mental illness many people are impeded from recovery and this needs to stop.

Finances

When compared to other health services the demand for mental health care is the most responsive to cost. A major player in this barrier is health insurance. Many have found that insurance companies place many restrictions to obtaining mental health treatment.

Mental Health System

Many of the barriers faced by those with mental illnesses are caused by the mental health system itself. This causes frustrations, long waiting time and a very disorganized system. The foundations of this failed system came from previous reform movements, disproportionate distributions of funds, and isolated health care. Mental health professionals are not communicating well with other health professionals. Another thing that needs improvement is the transition from inpatient to outpatient care.

These barriers prevent people from starting their journey to recovery. One way we can break down these barriers to get people to speak up about their issues. As a society we can work on educating the public about the truth. We can also break down these barriers by reaching out to someone in need and letting them know they no longer have to suffer in silence.

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