It’s Mental Health Awareness Week (Oct. 4-Oct. 10). The World Health Organization estimates between 30% and 80% of people with mental health concerns don’t seek treatment1. On Armchair Expert Podcast, it was reported that it takes five years for someone with depression to seek treatment.
The average person suffers for five years before taking steps to address it!
Almost 50% of adults will experience a mental illness in their lifetimes3. During the COVID-19 pandemic, 75% of men report an increase in stress and 50% report a decrease in mental health9. Men are also less likely to seek treatment compared to women.
If you’ve had a headache for five years, you’d go to the the doctor, right? Why is mental health different? Five years is too long to wait to get treatment for mental health.
But here’s why we don’t seek treatment for mental health!
We Don’t Know What Normal Is…
Are you normal?
Many of us aren’t in full understanding of what it is to feel ‘normal’. A manageable level of anxiety, a decent state of self-awareness, good relationships and a healthy sense of well-being are often considered symptoms of ‘feeling’ normal. Our families introduced us to the concept of normalcy. If our behavior wasn’t accepted among the family, we were told we were acting out of line. Sometimes this “telling” went too far. This, a phenomenon is referred to as gaslighting. Gaslighting is the act of causing someone to question their judgement or reality2. One way to gaslight someone, is to minimize their feelings.
“You’re blowing this out of proportion, aren’t you?!”
“You shouldn’t be this upset!”
“You’re being ridiculous!”
Now of course it may be normal for some judgement to be put onto the feelings of those closest to us. However, when it becomes toxic (IE you question your own reality), that is when it becomes a problem. Often our parents set the standard as to what normal is…and it may not be…normal. And therefore, we may not know exactly what normal may be.
Dr. Joe Luciani says “…understanding your present day insecurities and the environment provided by your parents (as well as other significant shaping influences) during your early developmental years, … give [s] yourself an important edge.”
Counseling can help map this out.
How do you define normal?
Admitting seeing a “therapist” or “counselor” is difficult. When others make this admittance, we may pass judgement. The Mayo Clinic names stigma around mental illness as the number one reason why people don’t seek treatment4. To make matters worse, nine in ten Americans agree that there is some stigma around mental health5.
It’s real, your not … cray
Think about this…
- Most villains in our movies suffer from mental illness.
- Have you ever had a “crazy ex”?
- Referred to another as ‘out of his mind’, ‘nuts’ or ‘bonkers’.
- Often Halloween costumes reflect people who have mental illnesses.
Often, we negatively describe others in psychological terms. We’ve all said these things!
Probably not the best idea, on second thought…
In a CBS poll, 79% of Americans agree that Mental Illness is a real medical issue, yet only 12% feel there is adequate care available 5. As of 2014, most insurance plans are required to offer some coverage for mental health6. Even with legislation, people still have a hard time getting coverage8. The workaround for insurance companies is putting stringent standards around the “medical necessity” of the treatment.
Online counseling companies such as Better Help, Talk Space and Am Well will save you a few bucks. Yet they are about $40-80/wk7. Though they are often unlimited in access. Employee Assistance Programs are available from many employers that will offer some benefit, however these are often limited8. On average, the cost of therapy is $60-$120 per session or week ($3,100-$6,200 per year). Those with insurance coverage pay slightly less.
Insurance coverage is often not adequate. Insurers pay primary care benefits at 23.8% higher rate than those of mental health benefits
10. Much stronger enforcement of parity laws is needed by state and federal governments in order to properly address this issue.
A study shows that 84% of mental health counselors are white13. Only 5% are latino and 4% black. As it stands, counseling and therapy is a white business. Only one in three African Americans who need mental health treatment receive it. It is difficult to get and access is often correlated with other socioeconomic factors. Ethnic and racial minorities have a disproportionate rate of disability related to mental health comparatively. It’s reported that 50%-75% of the youth in Juvenile detention centers meet the criteria for a mental illness. Gay men report higher levels of anxiety disorders than heterosexual men. Gay men are also more likely to report higher levels of dissatisfaction with mental health care, feeling as if the providers are judgemental or have anti-gay attitudes13.
While the above is not the complete picture, it serves to illustrate a trend. Most therapists are white, not as relatable to minorities and other groups. It is difficult to get access if you belong to these groups. Even if you do get care, you may not feel comfortable receiving it due to discriminatory attitudes by the provider. Many of our teens need mental healthcare, but it is often realized after they are incarcerated in juvenile detention facilities.
The answer to this part of the riddle is to continue to trumpet the importance of mental health and make it more available with a more diverse base of counselors.
Based on census data between 2007 and 2016, there was a significant increase in minority psychologists. This is promising news considering the problem. Further, it suggests a trend going in the desired direction.
When someone has clear signs of mental illness, but is convinced nothing is wrong it is referred to as Anosognosia11. This is a Greek word that more or less translates to “without knowledge of disease.”12. This is common in more serious mental health scenarios. It is thought that 40% of those with bipolar disorder and 57%-98% of schizophrenia patients have this condition12.
Anosognosia is the number one reason why patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorders do not take their meds15.
If you don’t have the ability to perceive the disorder, you likely won’t seek treatment.
Five Years Is Too Long To Wait To Seek Help For Mental Health
If you’re suffering in any form from a mental state, seek help. At work, ask for the EAP information. Talk to someone you know has participated in therapy. The point is, if you’re suffering give yourself the chance to get healthy. If it’s not something you were socialized or raised to believe is normal, be a part of the change that makes it so. One-hundred years ago most people didn’t have a doctor. In one-hundred years, most people WILL have a counselor.
Mental Health=Physical Health.
Happy Mental Health Day!