I have tracked my interest in politics to my figuring out that I had a mental illness, getting help, and becoming somewhat of a mental health advocate.
You see, I’m lucky. My husband has a good job and had great insurance, which provided me with the ability to basically pick whatever psychologist I wanted (according to availability, of course) and get appropriate care. When we moved, I got into a new psychologist because my former psychologist called him and ushered me into his care. I’m lucky.
So many individuals in need of mental health care for mental illnesses are not that lucky, especially in America. I’m even feeling it in a small way now because my husband’s company changed health insurance providers, and my psychologist doesn’t accept the new insurance company. Sure, I could pay out of pocket, but that’s a harder pill to swallow than just paying a copay.
By and large, it is so difficult for individuals to get proper care for mental illnesses.
Let’s say “Mary” doesn’t have access to great insurance that covers mental health care or the psychologist she needs to see based on her type of mental illness. What are her options? If she has the money, she could pay out of pocket. But what if she doesn’t have $200 per hour to spend on a psychologist? She often doesn’t go get the help she needs.
Sometimes she goes to a counselor who is less expensive but probably doesn’t have the level of expertise that would truly benefit her and her situation. Maybe she talks to a religious leader, who may have even less expertise, if any at all. She may get the wrong advice and end up worse off. She may just let the mental illness take over, making it even harder for her to work, socialize, and be productive as an individual, let alone in society.
Maybe she will stop working or lose her job. Maybe (if she is married), her spouse won’t understand what she’s going through. Maybe they will fight and end up divorced. Maybe Mary won’t be able to support herself anymore. Maybe she will have to go on welfare and still won’t be able to afford and get access to appropriate mental health care. And then, maybe she won’t be able to pay her rent and will get evicted. Maybe she will end up homeless, still with a mental illness. And then what are her options?
So what do we do?
Some people assign the blame to the individuals. They say it’s their fault for being homeless or “crazy” or for not working. But when you have a mental illness, these things that seem obvious (like holding down or getting a job) are often impossible, especially if the mental illness has become debilitating (which often is the case in the absence of proper care).
It’s hard to blame the psychologists. After all, they have gone to school for years, opened a practice, maybe hired staff, and that is all expensive. I understand that they just can’t give away their services for little to nothing. There is also, quite often, a simple lack of psychologists to go around, even if everyone could afford to go see them. If you can get in, there is often a long wait for an appointment slot.
Insurance, to me, is a huge obstacle. When there are those in need and those who can give care but the two cannot connect because of funds? This is heartbreaking to me. I don’t know what the answer is. I just know that I have personally witnessed the “system” failing. I’ve seen those who should or could be productive, working, and supporting themselves and their families not able to do so because of mental illness and an inability to get the care they need.
I see the potential future of such people. I see how it could so easily turn tragic, but I know it doesn’t have to do so. It’s a problem that I wish we could address. Sometimes religion and churches try to step in, but bless them, they don’t have the expertise.
Maybe I’m over simplifying, but it seems to me to be a gap between individuals and psychologists or other appropriate methods of care. How do we bridge that gap? Politics? Reform? Insurance? I don’t know, but something ought to happen. The problem will not just solve itself.