According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), roughly 52.9 million adults in the U.S. live with a mental illness. Of those 52.9 million adults, only 24.3 million received mental health services in the past year. For those living with mental illness, the barriers to seeking help couldn’t be more obvious. We may conclude that dealing with our mental illness alone is better than reaching out to others and risking scrutiny. Our struggle with our mental health may feel illegitimate or “not so bad.” Perhaps we want to seek help, but we don’t have the time or money to do so. Regardless of the specificities, it is essential to recognize that there are ways to deal with the barriers to therapy so you can get the help you need!
Here are some general barriers to therapy and how to deal with them:
Stigma refers to negative attitudes or inaccurate beliefs held towards an individual or group based on perceived traits that distinguish them from other individuals or groups (e.g., age, physical appearance, status, mental health, etc.). In the context of mental health, stigma can lead to discrimination in the form of bullying, harassment, and even violence. Consequently, individuals who experience stigma associated with their mental health may find themselves feeling isolated and reluctant to seek help.
Here are some ways to reduce stigma:
- Reach out to trusted friends and family: Friends and family can provide much-needed compassion, encouragement, and understanding.
- Join a support group: Groups such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offer local programs that reduce stigma by providing education, recovery strategies, and coping skills regarding a variety of mental illnesses.
- Recognize that you are not defined by your mental illness: As the adage goes: “language is power.” Instead of saying “I’m an insomniac,” you can say “I’m experiencing trouble sleeping.” We are all much much more than our respective diagnoses.
Many individuals are uncertain as to whether or not they should seek help for mental illnesses. They may attempt to downplay their issues and rationalize potentially harmful symptoms as being “not so bad.” This approach can have profoundly detrimental consequences. It is important to note that each mental illness has its respective symptoms. However, it might be necessary to seek help if you have experienced the following:
- Excessive and persistent fear, worry, and uneasiness
- Troubled sleeping
- Prolonged sadness
- Increased irritability
- Difficulties concentrating
- Lack of enjoyment of usual hobbies
Many individuals know they need help for a mental illness but may find it difficult to seek help due to more practical reasons such as a lack of time, money, or both. If you find yourself short on time for therapy, try finding a therapist that operates during the evenings or on weekends. Additionally, try to find a therapist that can do appointments through telehealth so you can get the help you need without leaving your home or office. As for affordability, there are plenty of low-cost options! If you have health insurance, call your insurance provider to inquire about in-network therapists that accept your insurance plan. You can also search for sliding-scale therapists in your area, contact your local community resource center, or see if your employer offers an Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
Lastly, when deciding to seek help, remember to treat yourself with patience and grace. There will be barriers, but in reading this, you have already made the exceptionally brave decision to face them with persistence and are thus one step closer to finding the help you need. Are you interested in our therapy services? Contact us today for a complimentary 15-minute video consultation to determine if our services can address your needs.
About the Author: Christian Wertman currently works as a behavior therapist in the field of applied behavior analysis. Christian received his Bachelor’s degree in psychology from San Francisco State University and has aspirations for a career in clinical psychology.