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MusiCares: The Truth About Adults with Mental Illness

A staggering number of adults who struggle with mental illness don't receive treatment; but help is available




MAY 10, 2018 - 6:48 PM

Thankfully, global perceptions of mental illness, and the associated stigma against seeking or receiving mental health, are beginning to show signs of real change in recent years.

Unfortunately, those changes are not coming quickly enough.

According to Mental Health America, a leading community-based no-profit dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness and to promoting the overall mental health of all Americans, nearly 60 percent of adults struggling with a mental illness in 2017 did not receive treatment in the previous year.

Furthermore, according to the MHA's 2017 study "The State Of Mental Health In America," more than 18 percent of all adults struggle with mental health problems annually. That's equivalent to approximately 44 million Americans.

That means that roughly 27 million Americans with a mental health issue did not receive treatment. These figures are as staggering as they are heartbreaking.

The causes for this treatment gap are, of course, varied, and happily this percentage of untreated adults is on a downward trend — albeit slight — dropping by roughly 5 percent since 2011.

But unlike the barriers to treatment faced by previous generations, the chief culprit contributing to the treatment gap is not a lack of desire to receive treatment or a lack of access to treatment. Even in Maine, the state the MHA found to have the best level of access, 41.4 percent of adults with a mental illness do not receive treatment.

A lack of insurance plays perhaps the largest role, though the percentages vary from state to state from as low as 3.3 percent in Massachusetts to as high as 23.8 percent in South Carolina.  Across the board, 14.7 percent of adults with a mental illness are uninsured — roughly 6.3 million Americans.

While this tangled web undoubtedly seems complicated, the good news is there are options even for those without insurance. Whether looking into affordable health care, seeking a clinic or community health center, or consulting a local support group or local spiritual leader, help is attainable. And it's actually "easier than you think," according to Alice Sanderlin, LPC-MHSP.

"Start by asking your doctor or clergy for referrals to a mental health agency or provider. Insurance companies also offer provider lists," says Sanderlin. "Therapy directories such as GoodTherapy.org or Psychology Today can help locate therapists in your location who specialize in various fields. Online therapy services (check for HIPAA compliance) offer messaging, video, and chat services with flexible hours."

or music creators, this issue of gaining physical and financial access to mental healthcare can often be compounded by a lack of insurance. If you or a music professional you know are struggling with accessing of affording treatment, MusiCares can help provide financial and institutional assistance.

In the face of the mental health epidemic that we are facing, it is critical that we continue working toward integrating behavioral and mental health screening tools and education into traditional systems of physical healthcare so the concerns of individuals living with mental health issues can be identified and addressed.

"Shame and fear can sometimes hold us prisoner," says Sanderlin. "The fear of being labeled or stigmatized can keep people from reaching out for help. We may be telling ourselves, 'I should be able to handle this myself.' Asking for help is sometimes the hardest part — just ask."

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