Since 1949, Americans have observed May as Mental Health Awareness Month. Mental health can be an uncomfortable topic of discussion, not only for those suffering with mental illness, but for those closest to them as well. After all, no one wants to be labeled as “crazy” or have that stigma often associated with mental illness. However, mental health problems are a daily concern for millions of Americans. In fact, Mental Health America reports that 1 in 5 Adults have a mental health condition – that’s over 40 million Americans.
What is mental illness?
The CDC defines mental illness as “all diagnosable mental disorders.” Effects of the illness include sustained abnormal alterations in thinking, mood, or behavior associated with distress and impaired functioning. The effects of mental illnesses can debilitate one from accomplishing even the simplest of tasks, often contributing to personal, social, and occupational impairment, even premature death. Among adults, the most common mental illnesses are anxiety and mood disorders.
Why is monitoring mental illness important?
There is a huge link between mental illness and other major diseases. Such diseases include: cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, asthma, epilepsy, and cancer. A 2012 study in the British Medical Journal found that people with even mild mental health problems may have a lower life expectancy. Those with the highest levels of depression or anxiety had a risk of death that increased a whopping 94 percent, most often related to heart disease. In fact, mental illness can be so debilitating that in 2002, the CDC reported that the economic burden of mental health cost the United States nearly $300 billion.
Additionally, data developed by the massive Global Burden of Disease study conducted by the World Health Organization, the World Bank, and Harvard University, reveal that mental illness, including suicide, accounts for over 15 percent of the burden of disease in established market economies, such as the United States. This is more than the disease burden caused by all cancers.
Health insurance and mental health
Mental illnesses are a disruption to overall well-being, work life, and social life. Treatment for mental illness can be monumental in improving a person’s well-being. A 2003 study published by the National Institutes of Health found that the treatment of depression in arthritis patients led to reduced pain and better overall health. This begs the question: is mental health treatment covered by health insurance? The answer: maybe, but at what cost?
It is completely possible to have mental health treatment covered, but it depends on your insurance carrier and the plan thereof. For example, health insurance plans from the health insurance marketplace (ACA) are required to cover mental health treatment. This isn’t to say it is the best option, as there are a number of potentially severe costs associated with obtaining one of these plans (see our blog post on ACA). Other options include insurance provided by employers, which can vary from company to company. It is best to speak with the insurance carrier or HR department to verify if mental health services are covered. Lastly, individual health insurance obtained privately can provide mental health coverage, but typically at a higher cost.
Without insurance, treatment can be costly. Private counseling or therapy can range anywhere from $50 to $240 for a one-hour session. Prescription costs can be even more outrageous without insurance. Consider Vyvanse: a brand name drug with no generic version used to treat ADHD and binge eating, can cost up to $400 for a 30-day supply, without insurance.
Ways to personally address mental illness
Health and happiness go hand-in hand, as the connection between the body and mind is strong. It’s easy to call the doctor or pop a pill when coming down with the flu, but how many times does a person ignore that persistent and overwhelming feeling of sadness or panic? How many times did that person call off work or cancel plans with friends and family due to massive anxiety?
The key thing to remember is that mental illness is not uncommon and there is much hope to those who suffer. The first step necessary to improving one’s mental health is to find a trusting person to talk to and help plan the next steps to achieve individual wellness. While this could be a family member (parents, grandparents, aunt, or uncle), individuals should also seek out resources at school (nurse or guidance counselor), church (rabbi, pastor, youth group leader), or community (coach, neighbor). There are also numerous hotlines available that provide emergency support and crisis intervention, as well as local support groups within the community.