Mental Health Awareness Month (MHAM) was created to raise awareness of mental health and the stigma surrounding it and to highlight the importance of that awareness. That makes MHAM the perfect time to raise awareness of another aspect of mental health – the inequity of mental health care in our country.
Why Mental Health Care Isn’t Accessible for All in the U.S.
One study, which surveyed residents of 11 major countries, found that American adults were far more likely than those in other countries to go without needed care because of costs. U.S. adults are also more likely to report having poor health and emotional distress.
The study found that one-third of U.S. adults went without recommended care, did not see a doctor when sick, or failed to fill a prescription because of costs. This shows that cost is a major barrier to accessing health care in the U.S., especially for the 1 in every 10 Americans who don’t have health insurance.
Lack of Services
In rural areas, there is often a lack of health care services available nearby, and this is especially true when it comes to mental health. Individuals may need to travel to another city, and this isn’t always possible for families who don’t own a car. Most small towns don’t have any form of public transportation, making it even harder to access health care.
There’s still a stigma around mental illness and even around caring for our mental health. Many people think that mental illness is something to be ashamed of. Some might think that mental health is a taboo subject, never to be spoken about, or that going to therapy is a sign of weakness or a complete waste of time. Some of these beliefs are stronger in certain cultural groups, making it difficult for someone to seek help if it means breaking away from their group’s norms and expectations.
Structural Racism and Discrimination
When you think of racism, you might think of hate crimes, slurs or other overt racism, but racism and discrimination have been going on for so long in our society that they are now – and have been for a long time – structural.
When racism becomes structural, it means that whether we as individuals intend to be racist or not, our society fosters racial discrimination through “mutually reinforcing systems of housing, education, employment, earnings, benefits, credit, media, health care and criminal justice.”
This includes our healthcare system. Even the most well-intentioned doctor can succumb to what’s called implicit bias – “a form of bias that occurs automatically and unintentionally, that nevertheless affects judgments, decisions, and behaviors.”
A few examples of implicit bias are:
- BIPOC patients receive fewer cardiovascular interventions and fewer renal transplants
- Black women are more likely to die after being diagnosed with breast cancer
- BIPOC patients are less likely to be prescribed pain medications (non-narcotic and narcotic)
- Black men are less likely to receive chemotherapy and radiation therapy for prostate cancer and more likely to have testicle(s) removed
- BIPOC patients are more likely to be blamed for being too passive about their health care
Why Mental Health Care Is So Important
To make sure our physical health is good, we need to eat well, exercise, take care of any existing conditions, and get regular checkups. Our mental health is no different.
21% of adults have a mental health condition and 46% of Americans will meet the criteria for a diagnosable mental health condition at some point in their life, but even for those who never experience a mental health condition, mental health management is still important.
Caring for our mental health allows us to:
- Manage stress
- Lower our risk of illness
- Increase our energy
- Boost our overall mood and health
- Cope with life’s challenges
- Realize our full potential
- Learn better
- Work better
- Contribute to our communities
Caring for our mental health prevents future problems, and helps us to live happier, healthier and longer lives. This is why doing everything we can to increase access to mental health care is crucial.
Related: Get Help Before It Becomes a Crisis – Mental Illness Preventative Care
What WTCSB Is Doing To Make Mental Health Care More Accessible in Our Community
At WTCSB, we’re dedicated to breaking down barriers to behavioral health care access.
Some of the ways we make healthcare more accessible here in our community include:
Training Staff in Evidence-based Practice Models
WTCSB staff are trained in evidence-based practice models that are found to more effective in multicultural settings, including:
- Trauma-informed care
- Solution-focused treatments
- EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing)
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Interpersonal psychotherapy
- FFT (functional family therapy)
Training Staff in Adverse Childhood Experiences and Mental Health First Aid
All staff are also trained in adverse childhood experiences and mental health first aid. This training is to ensure that clinicians are trauma-informed and therefore better equipped to serve populations that often suffer from intergenerational trauma.
Working To Promote Diversity and Equity
We’ve created the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee to help WTCSB stay accountable and to ensure that we’re meeting the needs of different racial, ethnic and cultural groups. We’ve also hired a human resources specialist whose role is to ensure that staff and leadership reflect the community we serve, so we can give those who have historically been silenced a voice.
Making Affordable and Accessible Care a Priority
Our #1 priority is providing quality, affordable and accessible care to our community members in Franklin and Suffolk and in the counties of Isle of Wight and Southampton. Help is always available at WTCSB, regardless of ability to pay.
Ready to get help? Make an appointment online for same-day access.
Join Us in Making Mental Health Care More Accessible for All This Mental Health Awareness Month
This MHAM, we want to shine a spotlight on the barriers many people face when it comes to getting help for their mental health – and how they can access the care they need.
You can help us to make mental health care more accessible in our community by raising awareness. Many people don’t seek care because they’re uneducated on mental health, are deterred by stigma, or are unaware that there are plenty of free resources available.
If you want to help, you can start by downloading our 2023 Mental Health Awareness Month Toolkit. This free toolkit can be used by individuals or organizations. It contains ideas and resources for how to raise awareness around mental health. It includes key messages that can be used for social media posts, newsletter content, emails, and more.
The toolkit also includes social media posts and images. Feel free to share them as is or to tailor them to your audience.
We also encourage you to share the research and ideas in this toolkit with family and friends, colleagues, in your community, and anywhere you interact with others.
We’re focusing on prevention this MHAM with our 2023 theme, Promoting Wellness and Averting Crisis Through Prevention. It is our mission to bring Prevention to even our most rural communities, attempting to reduce some of our biggest behavioral and social problems before crisis occurs.
The 2023 MHAM Toolkit focuses on three key messages:
- Key Message # 1 – Mental Health Matters
- Key Message # 2 – Prevention Week (Sunday, May 7th – Saturday, May 13th)
- Key Message # 3 – Getting Help
Download the 2023 MHAM Toolkit here.
Let’s move forward, together.