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How Can We Improve Mental Health Care?

Core Principles of Trauma-Informed Treatment

Today, people talk about mental health care more widely than ever. The more people discuss mental health care, the more glaring its inadequacies become. Millions of Americans experience mental illness, and many are slipping through the cracks of a broken system. So how can we improve mental health care and provide the support Americans desperately need? 

More than 50 million Americans experience mental illness. Almost a third of them report that they don’t have access to treatment. And more than 12 million adults report thoughts of suicide. Lack of mental health care accessibility is debilitating Americans. Many people are left to fend for themselves without resources or assistance, sometimes with life-altering consequences. 

Understanding the Importance of Mental Health Care

Mental illness can be frightening and confusing. By working with a professional to recognize and understand symptoms, you can learn how to best manage the illness.

Mental health can have a significant impact on a person’s physical health. So, why isn’t the same priority given to mental health care as to physical health? Taking care of your mental health can reduce the risks of health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and ulcers. 

Without proper care, mental illness can consume you and affect your happiness. Proper treatment helps you improve your relationship with yourself and others to live a more fulfilled and authentic life.

“Mental health care shouldn’t be challenging to get. Quality care should be available to everyone who needs it, whether it’s for their mind or body, because the two are tied together to make a healthy person,” said Teresa Mock, Director of Admissions at Integrative Life Center.

Barriers to Mental Health Care

Despite the need for mental health care services, many barriers keep people from receiving the help they need.

Lack of Affordability

Mental health care services are costly. Despite the Affordable Care Act requiring medical insurers to provide behavioral and mental health care coverage, many people still have to pay out of pocket. For a low-income family, mental health treatment is challenging to prioritize. Therapy sessions can range from $100-$200 per appointment. Paying out of pocket for necessary medications also adds up, especially over a lifetime. For some, it’s the difference between getting the treatment they need and putting food on the table. 

Limited Availability

Finding treatment is difficult when there aren’t enough mental health professionals to provide it. Often, people also can’t get the medication they need because their local pharmacy doesn’t provide it. There are rarely enough mental health care professionals in rural areas. Even in urban areas, clinics often have long waiting lists or limited providers. 

Lack of Awareness

Besides lacking the resources for mental health care, many people lack the education to recognize mental illness or know how to get help. 

And mental illness can be challenging to recognize. For example, symptoms of anxiety or depression can be dismissed as tiredness, laziness, or personality issues. 

Without the resources to help people recognize their symptoms, mental illness often goes untreated.

Social Stigma

The stigma surrounding mental illness prevents many people from accessing the care they need. Some people experience implicit stigma, maintaining their beliefs against mental health care, preventing them from acknowledging illness, seeking treatment, or sticking with a long-term treatment plan. 

Racial Barriers

A significant disparity exists regarding mental health care access for marginalized groups. White adults are more likely to seek help for mental illness than Black and Hispanic people, one survey found. 

Areas with higher marginalized populations are less likely to have enough mental health counselors to support the region and provide mental health education. 

Additionally, even if there is support, 88% of mental health counselors are white. People are less likely to seek help from someone they don’t believe will understand their background or cultural differences. 

“We need to help people understand that mental health care is for everyone. That means removing barriers and stigmas that keep people from seeking care. It also means educating and recruiting diverse individuals into the profession so that everyone can find help that makes them feel safe and understood,” Teresa said.  

How Can We Improve Mental Health Care?

Mental health care shouldn’t be overlooked. It takes work to break the barriers and make mental health care more accessible. To end the stigma, it’s important to continue talking openly about mental health. The more we shed light on mental illness, the more normalized it becomes. 

“There is no shame in needing help. People don’t feel ashamed if they need a doctor’s help to heal an infection or stitch a cut, nor do they feel like they have to hide those things from others. They shouldn’t feel like they have to hide mental health issues or be ashamed of them,” Teresa explains. “Openness surrounding mental health concerns will help end the stigma and make seeking this type of healthcare more acceptable.”

Better awareness can help funding. With higher mental health care budgets, professionals can provide better access to services and lasting treatment. The more money directed to mental health care, the less likely people are to end up in emergency rooms, jails and prisons, homeless shelters, or on the streets. Investing in mental health will save tax dollars in the long run. 

Additionally, it’s important to align policies and programs with health care coverage to make mental health care more affordable so people can get the treatment they need covered by their health insurance. 

Improving mental health care won’t happen overnight. Investing in community mental health services and wellness hubs can make mental health care more accessible and affordable. It’s also necessary to provide support to psychiatric training and research. With better access, resources, pay, and community support, more people will pursue mental health care or research. 

Keeping people in mental health treatment programs requires compassionate care, emotional support, and active listening. People discontinue mental health care because they feel invalidated. Enabling mental health care providers to be warm, empathetic, and understanding facilitates a safe environment for patients.

Encouraging and Seeking Change

The mental health care system in the United States needs reform, but it requires government, community, and individual support to improve. Mental illness can be debilitating without proper support and treatment. Elected officials and policymakers can change the system, but it takes work from everyday people to encourage change. The more we openly discuss mental health care, the more we can improve the system. 

At Integrative Life Center, we believe in compassionate, intentional care, a philosophy that has earned a national reputation for clinical and program excellence with clients and behavioral health experts. If you’re struggling with your mental health, contact us today to change your life and start the road to recovery.

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