6 Most Common Barriers to Mental Health Treatment

The Canadian Mental Health Association estimates that one in five Canadians (about 20%) will suffer from a mental disorder in their lives. The cold hard truth is, you may not know it, but you’ve probably encountered several different people who suffer from mental illness in your life.

A recent Canadian survey has these three interesting findings to report:

  • 80% of all respondents to the survey indicated that if they had to pay for psychological services themselves and that these costs would represent a “very significant” or “significant” barrier
  • 77% indicated that lack of coverage by provincial or territorial health plans presents an equally significant barrier
  • 67% indicated that the lack of coverage in employee health plans would a significant or very significant barrier.

The researcher who worked on this research project states that “this survey clearly shows that action is needed to bring down the barriers that Canadians face every day to psychological care and services.” In this blog post, we’ll explore the top six barriers to mental health treatment.

1. Mental Health Awareness and Education

Many people have heard of mental health and mental health illnesses and have a general idea of what it is, but there is still not enough awareness out there today to truly educate people. With a lack of awareness, it’s more likely that we’ll just brush emotions and feelings under the rug and say, “everything is fine.”

People dismiss their treatable conditions (take depression for example) by saying they are just “feeling down and lazy.” When it comes to anxiety, it’s chalked up to “being over-worried”. Behind-the-scenes, something is going on to make us feel that way and these feelings may actually be cases of clinical disorders.

In a different study investigating why people didn’t seek treatment for their mental illness, three common threads emerged: participants didn’t believe they had a mental illness that needed treating, they thought they could handle it without going for outside help, and they thought the problem would get better on its own.

2. Mental Health Education

Further to the study mentioned above, there is a lack of understanding of symptoms caused by mental health conditions. When people don’t understand what they’re feeling, it makes it pretty hard to go for help.

Mental Health education should begin from a young age so that symptoms can be identifiable, and people will learn there is somewhere to go to seek help. Today there is not much education around mental illness in our elementary and even high schools. We need to start arming our children with the knowledge they need to recognize and understand mental illness and put an end to the stigma.

3. The Stigma

Even if you know you have a mental illness, there is unfortunately still a stigma attached to it, which provides even more barriers to mental health treatment. This stigma does not apply to physical disorders, only mental disorders. When someone has a mental illness, they’re usually stuck with labels like “crazy”, “weak”, “lazy”, or even “dangerous”. This stigma – or negative stereotype – is what holds people back from seeking help.

Nobody wants to walk around with this label stuck to them. Mental health isn’t talked about as much as it should be. The more conversation we have around mental health, the more likely it would be that we’d all stand up, tell our stories, and seek help.

4. Financial Barriers

You may have an extended health insurance plan from your employer. But do you ever notice how physical conditions that merit massage therapy and physiotherapy have high spending limits, yet mental conditions that require psychotherapists and counsellors have low spending limits? That’s just one example of a financial barrier when it comes to mental health care. Seeking these services without insurance is a whole different game. These sessions can run upward of $200 for just one session.

Not to mention, if you’re taking medication for a mental disorder, the cost for that, especially if you are on more than one, could be hundreds of dollars per month. It’s simply unaffordable for many. Fortunately, there are more and more business organizations that place emphasis on treatments for employee mental health. The corporate wellness programs are affordable and accessible to their employees.

5. Difficulty Accessing Services

There is usually a pretty long wait time when it comes to seeing a therapist for your mental health. If you are in crisis, or your condition is worsening, there is not much you can do but wait, and maybe try out a new medication from your doctor in the meantime.

The problem with medication for mental illnesses is that you never know beforehand if the medication will work for you or if it will give you terrible side-effects. Then you need to repeat the whole process all over again until you find the right medication and dosage.

6. Lack of Mental Health Professionals

This doesn’t apply to all countries, but in some, there are simply just not enough trained mental health professionals. As noted in number four above, there is already a long wait time. Not having enough practitioners exacerbates this problem.

Unfortunately, there are many more barriers to mental health treatment, but hopefully, some of the points discussed here will get some attention in the years to come and serve to start breaking down the stigma.

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