Since the pandemic, mental health has become a global crisis, and instead of hiding the problem, schools, employers, and everyday people are openly discussing the subject.
Even though awareness of the importance of mental health is continuing to grow, there are still discrepancies between this awareness and the available resources for individuals who need
These roadblocks must be addressed head-on, and real change must be introduced.
Access to mental health treatment isn’t easy for everyone — especially those living in rural areas. This is not only due to the logistics around getting to and from treatment facilities but also to a shortage of qualified professionals that might live in the area.
Most rural areas are lacking in adequate public transportation infrastructure. This can be a significant barrier for individuals who aren’t fit to drive their own vehicles or don’t own one.
While friends and family members might be able to offer some additional support in this area, it presents a significant problem for single individuals who live alone or don’t have any relatives nearby.
Healthcare Industry Shortage
Since the pandemic, it has become clear that the healthcare industry is still going through significant labor shortage issues. This problem impacts nearly every sector of essential services, including mental health treatment facilities.
In areas where populations are high, the labor shortage often translates to significant wait times before qualified mental health providers can see individuals. This isn’t a safe option for many people as their conditions can become significantly exacerbated if not diagnosed and dealt with immediately.
Even with broad insurance coverage, the costs associated with mental health care services often bar people from seeking help. In addition, many mental health providers still don’t accept certain forms of insurance, or their coverage doesn’t come close to covering the significant care costs.
High deductibles, co-pays, and other out-of-pocket fees associated with mental health care further create complications for access to treatment.
This disproportionately affects lower-income individuals, who may need mental health services but have less income to pay for them.
Individuals may also skip sessions or only intermittently follow through with treatment regimens due to the high cost of care. Consequently, mental health providers might be forced to terminate treatment prematurely.
Lack of Diverse Representation in the Field
The racial, linguistic, and cultural disparity in the mental health industry can contribute to improper diagnoses and a lack of culturally responsive interventions for specific communities. This can lead to mistrust of mental health professionals and treatment services, as people in need may feel that the care offered doesn’t meet their needs or represent them adequately.
This representation gap within the mental health care field can create barriers and perpetuate long-standing misconceptions related to patient care. In addition, this lack of representation can also create inherent biases within the field, further invalidating marginalized groups and barring them from much-needed care.
Social Stigma of Mental Health
While awareness of mental health crises has increased, many individuals still view addressing mental health as taboo and socially unacceptable. Mental health stigma hinders patients from accessing care by creating discomfort and shame in seeking treatment, damaging an individual’s self-worth, confidence, and esteem.
This stigma may lead some individuals to avoid seeking care for fear of being judged or rejected by society. In addition, people may feel they should suffer in silence and learn to “deal” with their emotions alone.
Improving Access to Mental Health Care
To reduce this stigma, public education initiatives need to be put in place to address this stigma and place a stronger emphasis on policies and procedures being put in place in schools, workplaces, and hospitals.
For example, mental health screenings can be implemented in schools and workplaces to ensure students and employees feel comfortable discussing their mental health issues. This will create a safe space for people to talk about their struggles and raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of mental illness.
In rural communities, telehealth initiatives can also be put into place to provide accessible, remote mental health care for individuals who cannot make the trek to a physical clinic.
To maximize the chances of success, policymakers must focus on developing comprehensive measures aimed at increasing mental health education in schools and communities. Concurrently, society must promote greater awareness, recognition, and respect for mental health challenges, reducing stigma and expanding mental health resources.
Although this won’t happen overnight, recognizing the problem and planning out the future is the first step in a long journey ahead.