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.