Mental health: Is the cost of treatment costing lives?

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By Caroline Masfield

Mental illnesses, addictions, eating disorders, self-mutilation, and more. These issues are affecting more and more people everyday but treatment for them is not.

Why would that be?


It is not uncommon for mental health care, more so mental illness, to be topic of conversation after a suicide or school shooting, but the recent shooting at Sandy Hook brought the topic of accessibility and affordability of mental health treatment to the surface more so than ever.

The National Alliance of Mental Illness states on their site that, one in four adults—approximately 57.7 million Americans—experience a mental health disorder in a given year. And that, fewer- than one-third of adults and one-half of children with a diagnosable mental disorder receive mental health services in a given year.

To bring it closer to home, NAMI says on their site that of North Carolina’s approximate “9.2 million residents, close to 335,000 adults live with serious mental illness and about 99,000 children live with serious mental health conditions.”

Contrary, “North Carolina’s public mental health system provides services to only 34 percent of adults who live with serious mental illnesses in the state.”

The 2011 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that over half of Americans simply cannot afford mental health care- 70 percent of children needing mental health care are not receiving it. While some mental health care professionals accept insurance, not all do. One appointment with a mental health provider can typically run nearly 200 dollars, approximately.

The National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors Research Institute published a report on mental health and stated that $4.35 billion for services has been cut from state budgets over the past three years. While that is occurring, private care is becoming harder to obtain either due to providers not taking insurance, or the ones who do are all booked.

There are options available should you or someone you care about need help, but either you don’t know where to start or you don’t have insurance. If you are a student, set up a meeting with your school counselor. Here it would be Nicole Davis.

School counselors will be able to talk through the initial situation and help direct you to someone you can afford, or who will work with you on cost, that will get you the accurate and efficient help you need. Another option is talking with your doctor. They will be able to refer you to a mental health center for therapy that will work with you and your insurance as well.

As always, if you need immediate help for any type of mental health crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-TALK). You do not need to be suicidal to call the Lifeline. In fact, John Draper, a psychologist and the project director of Lifeline, says that 70 percent of the callers are not suicidal.

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