** If you or a loved one are experiencing a crisis or need mental health resources, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (en Español: 1-888-628-9454; deaf and hard of hearing: 1-800-799-4889) or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741-741.
To link callers with qualified counselors through the Nationwide Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a new three-digit national hotline, 988, went live on July 16. Anyone needing suicide prevention services or facing a mental health crisis can contact the hotline anytime by phone or text.
A Lifesaving Hotline Is Needed
The second most common cause of death for young people between the ages of 10 and 24 is suicide. However, suicide fatalities represent only a portion of the issue. In the United States, emergency rooms treat about 157,000 children and adolescents between the ages of 10 and 24 with self-inflicted injuries every year.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, emergency room visits for mental health among children and adolescents aged 12 to 17 rose 31% in 2020 compared to 2019. In particular, emergency department visits for suspected suicide attempts among girls aged 12 to 17 climbed by 50.6 percent in February and March 2021 compared to the same period in 2019, while similar visits increased by 3.7 percent among males.
Access Challenges to Mental Health Services
Many Americans struggle significantly with the access hurdles to mental healthcare. Over 27 million adult Americans with the mental disease go untreated, or more than half of all individuals with mental illness in the country. Even just one statistic raises questions. However, than most people are aware, mental health disorders are much more prevalent. One in five American adults has had a mental health condition, and one in twenty people in the country suffer from a significant mental illness like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depressive disorder.
Untreated mental health conditions can make it difficult for a person to lead a fulfilling life and to continue with family, career, or school obligations. Additionally, it may result in significant social and physical issues.
Access to mental health services can enhance people’s lives and communities. For many, it can significantly lower or eliminate the chance of legal troubles, family conflicts, career issues, substance misuse, and other mental and physical health issues. Suicide is a prominent cause of mortality in the United States. However, to improve the usage of mental healthcare services, we must first comprehend why individuals don’t already use them. Let’s look at the top 5 obstacles to obtaining mental healthcare.
- Financial barriers – While the Affordable Care Act required medical insurers to provide coverage for behavioral and mental healthcare, the cost of treatment still often limits access to mental health services
- Not enough mental health professionals – While the U.S. is facing an overall shortage of doctors, the shortage of mental health professionals is steeper than any other category. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, 149 million Americans live in federally-designated Mental Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSA). In contrast, 93 million Americans live in similarly-designated primary-care shortage areas, and 67 million live in dental health shortage areas.
- Mental health education and awareness – Physical injuries and illnesses are typically apparent. They don’t feel well, something hurts, or a clinical test shows an abnormality. Mental illnesses, however, are often harder to recognize. Symptoms are often subtle and sometimes dismissed as “personality” or “attitude” issues. For example, clinical anxiety may be dismissed as “worrying too much,” or depression can often look like “laziness” or “fatigue.”
- Social Stigma of mental health conditions – Multiple studies have found that the stigmas associated with mental illness often prevent people from accessing treatment. On the one hand, people’s beliefs about mental illness can prevent them from acknowledging their illness or sticking with treatment.
- Racial barriers to mental healthcare access – There are significant disparities in mental healthcare access among different racial and ethnic groups. One survey finds that white adults (23%) are more likely than black (13.6%) and Hispanic (12.9%) adults to receive any mental health treatment. These disparities stem from everything covered above, a lack of diverse representation in the mental health field, language barriers, and implicit bias.
Making mental healthcare more accessible
While these barriers and stats can seem disheartening, it’s essential to take the time to understand how these issues apply to the communities and individuals you serve. Understanding what prevents mental healthcare access opens the door to improving access with better programs and policies.