The Top 5 Barriers to Mental Health Care

by Nov 12, 2021

As a therapist, you are probably aware of some of these issues. In fact, you may be discussing them amongst your peers and already brainstorming solutions. So, what can a digital marketing company say that you haven’t heard, and why do we care?

This blog article is part of a larger conversation that we have been having (all blogs here) around how you can use content and digital marketing to help overcome the stigma of mental healthcare. We are digital marketers who believe that all marketing efforts be done in a way that puts the human being, and their wellness, over a bot and an algorithm. And we are digital marketers that work in the wellness space, mostly with clinicians and find immense joy in helping people like yourself reach the people that need your help the most.

Thank you for all you do,
The Alford Creative Team

Mental Health Care in America

The way we approach mental health care in America has come a long way. In the past, the stigma against mental illness and mental health care in general, was massive and kept people from seeking care. 

Happily, attitudes have shifted in recent years, but we still have a long way to go. 

A 2021 report from the Mental Health Million Project found that almost half of Americans with a clinical-level concern don’t seek professional help for mental illness. This statistic is unacceptable and we must take a deeper look at what’s going on.  

If almost half of Americans aren’t seeking help for mental illness, what’s getting in their way? Many of the barriers have been around for years and include unique concerns for people of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community. 

As providers, it’s important to understand the obstacles so you can help make mental and behavioral health services more equitable and accessible to everyone.

Here are 5 of the top barriers to mental health treatment in the USA

The Cost

The Affordable Care Act requires employers to provide coverage for mental health care and substance abuse services for their employees. 

However, not all plans cover all services and many have high deductibles and copays that still aren’t affordable for all.

Not only that, but almost 30 million Americans are still uninsured.

Without insurance coverage, even a basic mental health service like talk therapy can get expensive fast, leading many people to avoid getting the help they need. 

For those who can’t afford traditional therapy, online therapy is a great choice. It’s typically less expensive and offers a convenience that’s hard to beat. 

Other options include a high school or college counselor (for students), community health clinics, and local mental health clinics that may offer a sliding scale payment system or free or low-cost services to certain populations. 

Online provider databases like Psychology Today are also great for finding providers who offer a sliding scale payment option.

The Stigma of Mental Illness

The stigma of mental illness is much less prevalent than it has been in the past, but it is still there–and is a major deterrent for many people who need mental health care. 

A 2014 study that brought together data from 144 studies, including over 90,000 participants worldwide, found that stigma is still a key reason that up to 75 percent of people with mental health disorders do not receive treatment.

Dr. Sarah Clement, lead author of the paper, says

“Our study clearly demonstrates that mental health stigma plays an important role in preventing people from accessing treatment. We found that the fear of disclosing a mental health condition was a particularly common barrier. Supporting people to talk about their mental health problems, for example through anti-stigma campaigns, may mean they are more likely to seek help.”

The study also found that certain groups, such as young people, men, people from minority ethnic groups, those in the military and health professions, were more affected by stigma.

As a mental health professional, you play a very important role to fight the stigma and a great way to do that is using your digital presence. 

People are searching all the time for resources related to their struggles, so make sure to use your online platform and resources to spread awareness and to help others to help themselves. 

Content marketing is a powerful tool to normalize therapy and reduce the shame in mental health care and is one of the most important things you can do to fight the stigma behind mental illness.

  • Social media posts
  • Stories (anonymous) on your website
  • Blog articles related to specific struggles 
  • Podcasts and webinars

Understanding Barriers for People of Color and LGBTQ+ Clients

Mental Health in Communities of Color

Statistically, communities of color in the U.S. have a harder time accessing mental health services for a number of reasons.

About half of uninsured people in the U.S. are people of color. Members of minority racial groups often have limited resources, making it difficult to take time off of work, secure child care or find transportation to and from appointments. 

Additionally, linguistic and cultural differences — especially in immigrant populations — can result in breakdowns in communication that lead to poorer health outcomes.

Many people of color want to receive treatment from a doctor from their own racial group, but it’s not always possible. This can be merely a preference, but often it’s because they don’t feel that their concerns (especially mental health concerns) are taken seriously by doctors from other racial groups, making a lack of clinicians of color a barrier to mental health care.

In some communities of color, there is also a stigma against getting or admitting you need help. Only one in three Black Americans who need mental health care in the U.S. receive it, according to the American Psychiatric Association (APA). And Asian Americans are less likely than any other racial or ethnic group to seek mental health services.

Mental Health in The LGBTQ+ Community

Like POC, members of the LGBTQ+ community experience mental health issues at higher rates. Here are a few stats:

  • A recent study found that 61% have depression, 45% have PTSD and 36% have an anxiety disorder.
  • 40 percent of transgender individuals have attempted suicide in their lifetime. This is nearly 9 times the overall rate in the United States.
  • A 2020 study by the Trevor Project, a nonprofit organization focused on suicide prevention efforts among LGBTQ+ youths, found that 40 percent of LGBTQ+ people had considered suicide in the last year, and that number rises to more than half for trans and nonbinary youths.
  • Over one third of LGBTQ+ youth reported that they didn’t seek out help for mental health out of concerns about telling their parents or that a provider would focus on their sexual or gender identity. 
  • One in three transgender and nonbinary youth said they wanted mental health care, but didn’t seek it because they felt that a provider wouldn’t understand their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Communities of color and the LGBTQ+ community face more barriers to mental health services than other groups. Providing education and resources for these groups is a crucial part of mental health reform in the United States. Here are a few:

Access to Services

Lack of access to mental health services is another big barrier. People face a lack of providers, out of network insurance, not understanding how to navigate the complex system, or logistics that make scheduling and getting to appointments difficult.  

In rural areas specifically, this barrier is even greater. There are less mental health practitioners overall in smaller communities and common concerns like getting time off work and transportation to and from mental health care are exacerbated in rural areas. 

Additionally, the stigma looms larger in rural settings where there is often a desire to avoid accepting help and to just handle your problems on your own. Smaller communities also mean less anonymity for those who might otherwise seek help for mental health.

Mental Illness Keeps People from Seeking Help

Maybe the most tragic is that the mental condition itself is what often keeps people from seeking mental health care. When suffering from depression, it’s often difficult to find the motivation to even make an appointment for an initial therapy session. 

Some find themselves feeling too depressed to get help, but then weeks or months later, feeling much better, and like they don’t have a mental illness at all. This causes them to put off getting the help they need, and eventually the next depressive phase hits, leaving them stuck in a constant and vicious cycle.

How Can We Help?

There are many barriers to mental health care in our country, and minority communities are hit the hardest, but private practice owners and clinic leaders can do a lot to break down the barriers.

Often there are simple things you can do to tweak your messaging, digital offerings or marketing practices that can make a real dent in the problem. 

In our work, we guide practices in how to use their voice online to educate, inform, and change attitudes. We can help you build a roadmap for your marketing! 

What Happens Next?

We are looking to continue this conversation around accessibility and reducing the stigma of mental health care and we need your help. If you would be interested in attending a webinar or round table zoom event around these topics, we would love to have you as a guest! If you’d like to be involved, contact us here.

Obviously, a whole lot more needs to change to help bridge the gap of accessibility in mental health care. You are the ones who are on the ground, in the trenches doing the hard work every day. So how can we help each other? Sign up here for a free discovery call below to find out.

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