BARRIERS TO SEEKING MENTAL HEALTH CARE: IS NOW THE RIGHT TIME?

Shared by: Emily Peterson, MS, LPC-IT

When you think about your mental health, do you find yourself saying: “It can wait” or “I don’t have time to deal with this” or “I can’t afford therapy”? If so, you are not alone.

There are many reasons why people put off mental health care. Due to stigma of mental health care in society as well as high healthcare deductibles, many people continually put off seeking help.

In American society, we often have the “rub some dirt on it” mindset when it comes to injuries, pain, and physical problems. Find a way to get over it and move one, or you may be seen as “weak” or as a “failure”. Unfortunately, many of us have this mentality towards mental health as well, which creates a stigma.

What is “stigma”? Well, stigma is a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person. Stigma can scare people away from seeking help and make them feel ashamed. Stigma is the big bad wolf, the bully on the playground; and can often be seen in the way mental health is depicted in the media  You may be saying to yourself, “Well, how do people get past the stigma and seek help?”

Courage. (If you’re reading this, you already have some!) It takes courage to call the office and set up an appointment. It takes courage to show up and spill your guts to a stranger. And it takes the most courage to keep coming back. Having the courage to seek help does not necessarily mean you don’t feel the fear or shame of stigma. Courage means doing it in spite of feeling scared or ashamed. I wont’t sugar coat it, it’s not easy. But I’m guessing neither is the struggle or pain you may be dealing with on your own. When you seek mental health care, you are not only benefiting yourself, but your’re also benefiting the thousands of other people who are scared into silence by stigma. You are helping to pave the road towards acceptance and curing stigma.

Now that we’ve established that you are basically a stigma-fighting superhero, let’s talk about our second barrier to seeking mental health care…the cost.

Due to high healthcare deductibles, it is hard for many people to pay the cost of mental health care and psychological testing. These services are often seen as “extra” or “unnecessary”, even though they have proven to be essential and life-saving for many individuals. The steep price of therapy or psychological testing can be a major barrier for seeking treatment, especially earlier in the year. Even if you have the courage to seek mental health care, the fees alone may prevent you from making an appointment.

This is why September through December is such a fabulous time to seek mental health care! Many times, our annual deductibles have been met by this time of year. This makes the cost of therapy much more affordable. In addition, the “back-to-school” rush has ended, and many families may have established a routine. Finding one spare hour per week or every two weeks may not be as challenging of a task as you previously imagined.

Additionally, many people struggle with the changing of the seasons. Warmer weather has officially come and gone, and now we are looking towards the winter months. Little sunshine and a lot of cold weather causes many people to stay inside and isolate during winter months. These effects paired with existing mental health difficulties can cause many people to struggle. If you have struggled through the holidays or winter moths in the past, now could be a great time to begin therapy as a proactive way to learn new coping skills or gain support through the months ahead.

Yes, you could say, “I’ll be fine” or “I’ll wait until next year” and keep putting off your mental health care. However, now could be the perfect time to reassess your needs and financial capability to seek therapy. Maybe you’ll find that the time is now and you’ll have the courage to start making your mental health care a priority.