As people continue to encounter various kinds of mental health problems, the need for mental health services becomes more and more prominent. Mental health refers to one’s psychological, emotional, and social well-being.
The state of one’s mental health determines their feelings, thoughts, and behavior, and worsening mental health can disrupt their life. It can take away one’s invaluable relationships, employment, and a sense of normalcy and peace. And as if that were not enough, it can leave one feeling helpless and hopeless, reducing their motivation and life purpose to a dwindling thread.
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended many people’s lives. It has caused extremes of stress and anxiety due to the massive uncertainty. It has also left many with emotional loss because of their loved ones falling victims to the ravages of the pandemic. In short, the pandemic has negatively impacted the mental health of millions around the world.
People have had a lot to grieve since the pandemic began, and its persistence has been hard on many. People have had to isolate, lose jobs, or forced to say goodbye to the life of a loved one cut short. With the untold horrors that were unleashed on the world by the pandemic, it is impossible to think that anyone could have managed to escape its unscathed.
With the constant rise in mental health cases, heavily owing to the pandemic, we cannot neglect the need for mental healthcare providers. Many educational institutes offer PMHNP programs online to meet the growing demand for psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners and make mental health services accessible to all.
Access to mental healthcare should be made mandatory. However, there are many factors that make it difficult for people to seek mental health services. Before working to fill the shortage of mental healthcare facilities, it is first vital to understand what inhibits people from seeking out mental health services in the first place.
Following are some of the most common barriers to accessing mental health services.
- Financial Costs
The financial factor is one of the most common deterrents when it comes to seeking mental health treatment. In many research studies, respondents cited the high cost of mental health treatment as their reason for not seeking it.
Even with access to medical insurance, mental health treatment can be expensive. If one were to require more focused treatment programs along with simple therapy, the cost can rise up exponentially.
Not everyone has access to as much financial resources to continue getting consistent treatment. While some may not consider getting mental health services because of the steep costs, others find it difficult to continue treatment as the cost keeps getting steeper as the treatment progresses.
- Lack of awareness
The lack of awareness around mental health is one of the key barriers to seeking mental health services. Lack of education about mental health prevents people from recognizing the symptoms of mental health illnesses or disorders.
Because of inadequate awareness, people don’t understand the need for mental health treatment. You are less likely to seek treatment when you don’t even know if there is anything wrong with you; and you are even less likely to seek treatment for something you don’t know exists.
Physical disease or sickness is easy to recognize because they are observable. You go to a doctor when you know your body hurts, but who do you go to when you can’t attribute the hurt to your physical self?
Many cases of depression go untreated because the people suffering from it do not think of the yawning sadness as a mental health disorder, instead it is brushed off as just a phase.
Many mental health problems go unchecked because their symptoms are so subtle that they are easy to miss as actual disorders. For instance, you may see your or your loved one’s anxiety as overthinking or perhaps chalk up someone’s OCD as their love for organization.
- The stigma associated with mental health
The stigma around mental health can make it an unapproachable topic to talk about in many communities. Despite the active campaigns undertaken to spread awareness about mental health problems, many people still perceive them negatively.
Some people view depression or anxiety as choices one can undo instead of mental health disorders that need treatment. Such negative perceptions associated with mental illnesses can become obstacles in way of seeking treatment.
People fear discrimination, social exclusion, and resentment. Brandishing your mental illness in front of those who may treat you negatively because of it can then nothing short of a daunting prospect. Hence, many let their mental disorders go untreated to avoid negative perceptions.
- Limited availability
Mental health services are not readily available everywhere. The cases of mental health disorders or illnesses continue to grow, but the growth of mental healthcare providers hasn’t risen in relation to it.
There are not as many students who choose to specialize in mental health, creating a shortage of doctors and medical care providers in the field. Moreover, even when people have access to mental healthcare facilities, they have to wait for a long time before they can get treated. The long waiting lines due to the limited number of practitioners can further deter one from seeking treatment.
Furthermore, mental health services are not easily accessible in low or middle-income countries—a problem that specifically exists in the rural areas. People living in rural areas have little to no access to affordable mental health services in their proximity, and they also lack the information needed to search for them.
According to the report published by the World Health Organization, we need 18 million more health workers to achieve Universal Health Coverage by 2030 in developing countries.
The unattainability of medicines in low-income countries also restricts the treatment options for many mental health-related problems. The existing mental health workers cannot offer appropriate treatment when they don’t have the means for it.
Seeking mental health treatment is everyone’s prerogative, regardless of whether or not doing so is a choice or a result of circumstances. Increasing mental health services and making them available for more people can improve many lives and the overall community. Leaving your mental health untreated can lead to drastic results, including the risk of suicide, job loss, and fraying relationships. Your mental health can even lead to other physical ailments.
Understanding how the barriers to accessing mental health services come to be can help clinics and institutes break them down. Institutes can employ better programs and campaigns to actively increase mental health awareness and challenge the stigma around mental disorders. Many people hesitate to seek treatment because they are afraid of the outcome. Enlightening people and improving the provision of mental healthcare services can help many. By eliminating these barriers, we can ensure that people get a good shot at living a fulfilling life.