Many of us have been met with situations over the span of life -- or, perhaps, even more so in the last few years -- that might have led to mental health issues like anxiety or depression.
Unfortunately, a recent study showed that four out of 10 Americans are unable to access mental health care when they need it. According to the same study, many adults identified cost as one of the biggest reasons why they did not receive or seek mental health support.
There have been efforts to require insurance companies to provide coverage for mental health conditions, but it’s still not quite where some need it to be.
Other barriers to mental health care, according to a nationwide Access to Care Survey, included availability, wait times, lack of diversity and proximity to care.
Untreated mental health challenges
So, what happens when mental health challenges go untreated, or someone cannot get the care they need?
Dr. Christine Cauffield, with LSF Health Systems, said any mental health challenge that goes untreated can lead to a decline in someone’s overall mental well-being -- whether it’s by way of anxiety, depression, a substance abuse disorder or an eating disorder.
“It’s a general rule of thumb that if you experience a problem and you don’t address it or fix it, it will get worse -- just like your car: If you ignore the engine light long enough, your car will eventually break down,” Cauffield said.
She added that ignoring mental health challenges can lead to relationship, work and school issues.
Counseling for mental health
There are many benefits that can come from counseling. Simply put, counseling is a form of talk therapy that involves a trained professional listening to and helping someone find ways to deal with emotional issues. These professionals can be psychologists, licensed counselors and social workers.
During counseling, a patient should expect to do the following with a professional:
- Establish goals and develop approaches to address emotional issues.
- Build coping and communication skills.
- Promote positive changes in behavior.
- Work to improve self-esteem and mental well-being.
Identifying different types of counseling
Individualized counseling can help a patient deal with their depression and anxiety symptoms, as well as increase their skills in interpersonal communication to improve relationships.
Family counseling can help to reduce conflict among family members and increase familial support.
Couples counseling can help couples increase healthy communication and improve their coping skills.
Group counseling can help people improve their communication and social skills while increasing personal perspective.
Cauffield said the two main takeaways from understanding the different types of counseling are this:
- Mental health deserves to receive the same amount of effort as physical health.
- It’s a sign of strength, not weakness, to reach out for support.
Finding a therapist
For those who have health insurance, many companies have a list of mental health care providers within their network. There are also telehealth options like Teladoc, Better Help, Talk Space and more.
Seeking out mental health help is a sign of strength, Cauffield said, and counseling is often the first step to healing and fixing relationships or familial problems. Different types of counseling will address different needs.
She added that not everyone clicks with the first therapist they try.
“Don’t be afraid to visit a few and see who you like best,” Cauffield said. “It’s important you feel as comfortable as possible.”
To learn more about accessing mental health care, watch the video above, click here, or call the LSF Access to Care hotline at 877-229-9098.