Mental health is becoming a more prevalent topic in the media for both positive and tragic reasons. Mass shootings and teen suicide rates continue to be a growing concern, but in recent years the stigma surrounding mental illness has been declining. The younger generations have ushered in a new era of the way we look at mental illness, and it is refreshing to see! More people are seeking mental health treatment today than ever.
What Prompts People to Seek Mental Health Treatment?
There are numerous reasons why one may seek out a mental health specialist. Below are a list of just some of the top reasons people seek out therapy.
A doctor recommended they see a therapist
A trauma occured, such as the loss of a loved one, loss of a job, or divorce
To help with a diagnosed mental illness
Life transition, such as having a child or newly married
Another source which prompts others to seek out counseling is other family members and friends. There is a large push for family and friends to talk about their own mental health. When parents are open about bettering their own mental health with their children and family, it invites others to talk about their own mental health journey more openly. This openness brings about an environment in which others feel comfortable and confident in discussing with others their successes and struggles in mental health.
Barriers to Seeking Mental Health Treatment
Although mental health is becoming a more prevalent topic, there are still several reasons why people choose not to seek treatment. While in the younger generations, the stigma surrounding seeking treatment for mental illness is fading away, it is still a significant reason why many do not seek counseling. Think about this scenario: a teenage boy is feeling overwhelmed with stress and anxiety and wants to talk to someone about what he is going through, but his parents have made comments in the past about how a man needs to “suck it up” for his family and that going to therapy is “weak.” Do you think that teen is likely to go to his parents for advice or help in this situation?
Parents are notorious for not seeking mental health and often come up with every reason in the book to justify to themselves why they are not doing so. They are busy with work, busy with kids’ activities, not enough money, money could be better spent on the kids, their kids need the therapy more than they do. The parental urge is to always put your kids first, but I argue just the opposite in this scenario. Whose oxygen mask do you put on first when a plane loses cabin pressure-yours or your child’s? Yours! You are no good to your child if you are passed out from lack of oxygen! The same principle applies here: parents need to take care of themselves, both physically and mentally, in order to fully help their children. This also sets a great example for the children when they see their parents putting their mental health as a priority to also do the same. It also creates an environment for open communication about mental health.
Cost and lack of insurance coverage is another reason why some may choose not to seek counseling. Some think that counseling costs an arm and a leg per session and they cannot afford it, however, that is simply not true in every case. Some people do prefer to pay “out of pocket” for therapy, while others prefer to go through their insurance. When insurance still does not make therapy an affordable option, there are therapists who are willing to offer a sliding scale to some clients. There are also Licensed Professional Counselor-Interns who are working to obtain their hours of supervised therapy needed to earn their full LPC license that offer therapy at a much reduced price than the fully licensed therapists. Not to worry though-all LPC-Interns are supervised by a trained supervisor with a full license to practice. Another option is to seek out students in their Masters program who are studying to obtain their degree. Students on a counseling track in their Masters program need to obtain a certain amount of hours during their course of study and their services are free! They are, of course, highly supervised by a licensed supervisor as well.
Lastly, another barrier to someone not seeking mental health treatment may simply be a lack of awareness that there is a problem. We know right away if we fall and break our leg. There are obvious signs like the intense pain, not being able to walk right and maybe even a deformity. A mental illness is less noticeable and symptoms often do not stand out to you like the intense pain of a broken leg. This makes noticing that there is a problem much harder. Often people do not know the symptoms of a mental illness, so a lack of knowledge about mental illness is also a barrier. If you don’t even know there is something wrong, how likely are you to fix it?
What We Can Do:
What can you do to help spread awareness of mental health? Talk! We need to continue to welcome the open and frank conversations about mental illness in the community, with your friends, and your family. We need to open the lines of communication with our family members and friends and create an environment where everyone feels more confident and comfortable speaking about their own mental health journeys. Share what has worked for you! Advocate for more funding for mental health facilities. Continue to seek knowledge and educate yourself on mental health. Lastly, seek mental health counseling yourself. Take care of you so that you can take care of those you love.
Brianne Lutterman is a Licensed Professional Counselor (license #70801) with three years of therapeutic experience and eight years experience in working with individuals, children, couples, and families.