It’s estimated that almost half of all Americans will experience a mental health issue at some point in their lives. We’ve discussed some of these issues in previous posts - Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, PTSD, Bipolar Disorder to name a few. Although research shows that 76% of Americans believe behavioral health is just as important as physical health, and 56% want to access a mental healthcare provider, there are many barriers. This article discusses those hurdles, as well as possible solutions to getting every individual the care they deserve.
Reasons For Not Being Able To Access Behavioral Health Services
Lack of access to behavioral health providers does not come as a surprise to most Americans. 74% of us do not believe such services are accessible for everyone, and almost half of us (47%) believe options are limited. This is a situation that must be addressed, as without readily accessed mental health services, there can be a significant impact on jobs, relationships, and overall physical health on the individual level. And these individual impacts ultimately affect the economy as a whole.
There are a multitude of reasons for not being able to access behavioral healthcare.
Shortage Of Providers. There are mental health professional shortage areas in every state, according to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation. This same study showed that nearly 40% of Americans live in regions with a shortage of mental health providers, leading to limited or delayed access to services. Regional shortages cause long wait times (38% of those trying to get help waited longer than a week for care), and some people simply give up rather than wait. Unfortunately, one of the main issues resulting from the behavioral healthcare shortage is that 60% of mental healthcare visits are through a primary care provider and not the specialty care that is necessary to truly address mental health.
Transportation To Facilities. Related to the above is the fact that not all individuals have reliable transportation to healthcare - whether that is because of the distance they have to travel to seek help or the fact that they have their own mobility issues. This issue often impacts low-income communities, disabled individuals, and those who live in rural areas. 46% of patients report that they or someone they know has had to travel more than an hour to access care in a timely manner.
Lack Of Awareness Or Understanding Of Where Or How To Get Help. While most Americans do try to find care, research shows that 29% who wanted treatment for themselves or loved ones did not seek it because they didn’t know where to go. Leading to a greater need for visibility and education to help identify behavioral health issues and understanding the right type of care to seek for treatment.
Stigma. Several weeks ago, we wrote about the stigma around behavioral health that causes people to avoid or delay seeking treatment due to their perception that they may be treated differently, or that seeking treatment may impact their jobs or social status. In fact, research shows that nearly one-third of Americans worry about others judging them when they told them they sought mental health services. And a study specific to older adults found that the most commonly reported barrier to treatment for that age group was the personal belief that "I should not need help".
How Virtual Behavioral Health Care Can Help
So how do we address this problem? The issues are complex and will likely require further study and changes to public policy and education. But virtual behavioral health care (also called telebehavioral health) may be one of the solutions. Virtual care expands access to providers, eliminates the problem of transportation or mobility, reduces wait times, and eases concerns about the stigma since visits take place in the privacy and convenience of patients’ homes.
The CDC recently concluded that “telehealth… can improve health care access outcomes, particularly for chronic disease treatment and vulnerable groups.” Another published, peer-reviewed study found that “behavioral health virtual visits deliver the same outcomes as in-person visits for many conditions, and meet the same standards of care set by the National Committee for Quality Association.” And the good news is that 45% of Americans who have not already tried virtual behavioral health services said they would be open to the idea of trying it to address a current or future mental health need.
Considering A Career In Telebehavioral Health Or Know Someone Who Could Benefit From Virtual Access To A Licensed Mental Health Professional?
Telemynd offers patients the ability to connect with providers from the safety and convenience of their homes. Providers can join our network by applying online. If you’re a patient, choose your current insurance provider to request an appointment or call our live support for assistance in scheduling care today!