According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), about 20% of Americans live with some kind of mental disorder in 2017.
This represents about 40 million individuals around the country. The most prevalent issues were depression and anxiety disorders, which cover a vast number of all estimated cases. Mental wellbeing can be a very sensitive topic, and many people choose to avoid treatment or hide their mental health conditions. So, what are the main reasons for this trend?
Since healthcare is so expensive in the United States, many people avoid seeking care of any kind due to financial reasons. However, when talking about health issues, financial priorities are always more focused on physical health. Mental health issues are often regarded as secondary to regular diseases, and people don’t want to invest as much money in treating them.
Unfortunately, even many people who have health insurance simply cannot afford to pay for mental and behavioral health services. Sessions with a therapist can get expensive quickly, especially if the insurance policy requires the same copayments for behavioral health that they would normally charge for a specialist.
If you have a physical health issue, you may be able to resolve it or work out a long-term management plan with just a few sessions. Behavioral health, however, often involves weeks, months or even years of weekly or biweekly sessions. This is enough to make many people unsure think twice about seeking help.
Fear of the Social Stigma
Shame and embarrassment are still major factors when people are deciding if they should seek treatment. Many studies suggest that mental health stigma often prevents people from going to therapy. This stigma can create problems in society or the individual himself.
People will often be prejudiced or have a negative view of someone who they think has a “mental illness,” without realizing that almost everyone will grapple with some sort of mental wellness challenge at some point in their lives.
People are aware of all the negative connotations that come with having a mental disorder and don’t want to be labeled as mentally unfit by their social groups. The risk of discrimination is very real and it can lead to being ostracized by peers at work or even by the person’s family or friends.
A study done in the United States from 2008 to 2014 found that, out of 20.785 questioned individuals, 11 percent avoided treatment because they were concerned about the opinions of their neighbors. Also, 6.5 percent of participants stated that they didn’t want others to find out, and 8.1 percent were worried about their job.
Shortage of Mental Health Professionals
The lack of available mental health professionals is an issue that is especially evident in rural areas. There simply isn’t enough educated personnel that can handle the number of cases that are present. Another dimension of this problem is that older people often aren’t able to drive to some other area where they can find therapists. Physical distance can be a very huge obstacle.
This issue can be alleviated a bit with today’s technology. Telepsychology has been around for more than 20 years. It can be done by phone, text messages, or emails, but recently the biggest trend has been online therapy with webcams. Studies by the Telemental Health Institute suggest that this type of therapy can be very effective and that it’s an acceptable alternative to usual methods.
People Are Not Aware of Their Condition
This is usually the most overlooked reason when talking about avoiding mental care therapy. Many people with mental disorders simply aren’t aware that they have a problem and don’t see a reason to find a therapist. There can be multiple causes of this issue. Some people are in denial and don’t want to admit to themselves that they have mental health issues. It can be a tough pill to swallow. Even when they recognize the problem they often choose to ignore it and think of reasons to avoid seeking help.
Counseling psychology, holistic psychiatry, integrative psychiatry, and similar terms sound like something that is only used for serious cases of mental illnesses. That is, of course, not the case, but many people will brush off their own issues and tell themselves that they don’t need treatment like that. Another highly present problem is that a lot of individuals have lived with an issue for so long that they can no longer differentiate it from the normal state of mind. From their perspective, their way of thought is completely normal.
Lastly, some people suffer from a condition called anosognosia — a deficit of self-awareness. This can happen to individuals with schizophrenia or some psychotic disorders. Their mental illness is so severe that they aren’t aware that they have a mental disorder.
Lack of Trust
Studies show that many people with mental health conditions aren’t keen on sharing their problems with doctors or counselors. This issue can show itself in two ways. One group of people doesn’t like the idea of telling their problems to a stranger.
It can be hard to open up, especially when the subject is as sensitive as mental health. Others have concerns about confidentiality. Having your personal information leaked can be a scary thing to consider. A study found that almost 10% \of individuals that avoid mental health treatment do it because they are concerned about confidentiality.
Feelings of Inadequacy, Hopelessness, or Fear
A common obstacle for people with mental illnesses is their belief that they would be inadequate or weak if they admit that they have a problem. Many individuals pressure themselves to solve the situation on their own or to tough it out. This issue can even be amplified by their mental state in some cases and make them very stubborn.
Feelings of hopelessness are also a huge issue, especially with people suffering from depression. Their mental condition can make them demoralized and put their mind in a state of believing that nothing can help them and that they can’t get better. Furthermore, some people don’t have a clear picture of mental therapy and can develop a fear of treatment. They can be influenced by untrue stereotypes from various media and get cold feet.