What’s the Price of Mental Health?

Break on through
Image by Sebastiano Pitruzzello (aka gorillaradio) via Flickr

While I am no stranger to the cost of mental health services, I am finding it especially difficult to swallow when I have no health insurance and while I also recognize the need for myself and my family to have access to these services. I am saddened, frustrated, and scared by the state of our mental health system.

As you likely know, I am continuously striving to live better, healthier and to be the best I can be, and still I am aware of the need for help and guidance. As a person who has struggled with depression and other mental health issues for almost 20 years, it is not hard for me to recognize nor is it hard for me to accept or share that my family and I need some additional help right now. What is hard for me to say, is how completely deplorable it is that it should be so difficult to find good care that doesn’t cost a fortune and does not require health insurance.

Last year, I lived in a different state (Missouri) and I was able to find good counseling services for a very reasonable rate. I called the same program, now in our new state of residence (Kansas), and the price is more than four times the amount for the same service, because Kansas does not have some kind of state levy tax or something or other. ( I don’t know what that means, except that we cannot afford to access their services because a counseling session costs $70 versus the $15 I paid for a family member in Missouri. My family is in and has been facing financial hard times, much like the rest of America, and it is not remotely possible to spend $70 for a counseling session and believe me, I would if I could. Now take the $70 and multiply it by three, for three family members… that makes the cost incomprehensible.

I have spent time hospitalized for depression in previous years, myself and my family has spent thousands of dollars on my mental health (and this was with health insurance). My mental health, anyone’s mental health for that matter, is worth the cost, but what do you do when you absolutely do not have the money to spend and it is required up front to obtain services. This is not a new conundrum, this is the same old story that people are talking about all across our nation. This problem is not unique to me, but it sure feels personal right now.

I spent time on the phone with the United Way today, a great organization, as they worked to help me find some counseling services in my area that might be low cost. It’s too bad that out of the three resources they gave me, one of the numbers was out of service and another was for family planning (pregnancy and such) rather than family counseling. I have left a message with the third, hoping for a return phone call in the not too distant future, but who knows what the cost of therapy will be even there.

This isn’t a post for pity, it is a post to raise a ruckus about the dire state of our mental health system. When a family is looking for help, but unable to find it… it’s just so sad. How can  I advocate for people and fight to reduce stigma, how can I persuade others to get over the fear of getting help, when they might very well be met with denied access to help or assistance that is far too costly?  That is exactly the predicament we have.

One day, our world will recognize that our brains are connected to the rest of our body, that our wellness is in the world’s best interest, that separating mental health from “regular health” is like asking us to amputate a limb and pretend it’s still there. I will not forget the importance of mental health and neither will all of the hundreds of thousands of people who are affected by mental health issues every single day. There is no six degrees of separation when it comes to mental health concerns, it touches each of us, no separation.

12 thoughts on “What’s the Price of Mental Health?

  1. Amy,
    I’m so sorry that you are finding it so hard to locate affordable help in your area. That is just a shame that you have to be burdened with this on top of all else. I have put a link to Catholic Charities, they do have services available regardless of ability to pay and they also do sliding scale. I am not sure if this is available in your area, each circumstance i viewed on an individual basis. Maybe this is something you would consider an option if you haven’t already?


  2. Great post. I am facing much the same problem right now. Access to affordable mental health care is so hard to find, and too often insurance puts limits on the amount of mental health care one can receive. It amazes me that the issue does not receive more attention.

    Good luck in finding something that works for you and your family.

  3. The military has all kinds of coverage – 100% coverage. And I am here to tell you, it’s a joke. I know someone who desperately tried contacting their base counselors for assistance, and never heard back from them. Disgusting, to say the least. My fear? This is how a public option would be run, in my opinion.

  4. *hugs* I’m so sorry to hear you’ve been stuck in a rough patch! Financial stress compounds any and all worries! I wish I could just send you bags of money, so you wouldn’t have to even think twice about seeing a counselor!

    I agree, mental health is greatly undervalued in our society. I wish X number of psychologist visits were recommended to people each year, just like physicals and annual women’s exams are!

    • Thank you my friend! That is so sweet!

      Here’s the problem, even if X number of visits are allowed per year, which they often are, that is only for people with health insurance and their coverage usually only covers part of it or only X number, not a single visit over. It just so messed up. In order to get good care for your children, much less yourself, you have to have money, plain and simple. I suppose it is just more motivation to get as healthy as I can so that I can provide them these things, but I sure hope the cost isn’t too great.

      And those physicals and annual exams are only for the insured, too. Although, there are free/low-cost services available in some areas for women’s annual exams, but it may be at a clinic that is certainly not near as comfortable as seeing your OB/GYN that you are familiar with and trust. It’s a scary world in the medical field for the uninsured. This is a period of life I will never forget and I will always cherish health insurance for the gift that it is when the day arrives that my family and I have it again!

      Thanks for your support and understanding, and for allowing me to vent. =)

  5. I agree with what you said. The reason I said, “I wish X number of psychologist visits were recommended to people each year, just like physicals and annual women’s exams are!” was because I feel that if more people in society realized how valuable they are, then there were be more advocates fighting for accessible services. Like most Americans, I also agree that our healthcare system has got major issues.

  6. Amy, That sucks. As a Canadian, I really take affordable health care for granted. I have been hospitalized for my depression and haven’t paid a cent for it. I’ve seen therapists and all of them offered a sliding scale based on income level (I think the government made up the difference), and the cost of my medication is very minimal (I pay maybe $20 or less every 3 months).

    Although I have been known to complain about socialism and about my taxes, I know I wouldn’t have received the help I have if it wasn’t so reasonably priced. I can’t imagine trying to bleed money from a stone to pay for something so necessary.

    This is one thing about America that confuses me. It is a country founded on “Christan values” (as was Canada) and yet people needlessly suffer because they can’t afford the medical costs. I can’t get my mind around it. The more I hear about America’s medical system, the more it seems like a person needs to be a rocket scientist to understand how it works.

    Okay, I know this wasn’t a helpful comment. I feel for you and don’t understand a system that can let people in need of help not get the help they need. It doesn’t seem right!!!

    Maybe you should just move to Canada 🙂

    • Jamie,
      This was a helpful comment, for a couple of reasons… 1. It made me smile! 2. You validate the absurdity of the American health care system.

      It isn’t right, it is all so wrong. What I don’t understand, for the life of me, is why this country’s leaders are so unwilling to institute change. I can only imagine that fear is behind it, what else could provide such a strong driving force for this cold-hearted and callous system?

      I remember in high school we had a project where we discussed the benefits of a health care system like Canada’s versus the United States current and still broken system. There was indecisiveness and uncertainty among the students, but it seems like a “no-brainer” to me! Plain and simple, affordable health care is a necessity, it should not be a luxury.

      Thanks for listening to my rant! It’s just so frustrating to be unable to provide my children with the health care they deserve, much less myself.
      ❤ Amy

  7. Glad I brought a smile to your face, Amy! I think most health care systems have something broken with them. Our doctors and nurses are overworked, underpaid, and our wait times are terrible – and yet I wouldn’t trade it for your system 🙂 I guess we all just have to work with what we have. Take care and maybe consider moving up to Canada 🙂

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