There is something wrong

I got an email yesterday. A patient needed to cancel their session, and delay therapy indefinitely. Not because they don’t believe that they are benefiting from therapy. Not because they don’t need an additional layer of support. But because this patient, who works and has health insurance, also has an expensive new diagnosis. They are facing a condition that has costly treatment, and they just had to add an expensive piece of equipment to that treatment (and yes, my grammar police friends, I know that “they” is the wrong pronoun to use for the singular, but it is the only one that totally protects patient identity). In the email that I received, my patient directly stated “I just can’t afford it . . . there’s no way that I can take care of physical and mental health.”

There’s something so wrong with this that it makes my heart hurt and my stomach ache. Here is a patient who has overcome the stigma and fear that prevent many people from seeking counseling. This person is ready, in need of support, and reaching out. Their therapy could make a huge difference in their adjustment to the learning curve of their new diagnosis. Therapy could support healthy choices and contribute to additional positive coping. And yet, despite having insurance, their out of pocket costs are prohibitive.

I know that I have said this before, but today, I feel like I have to say it again. Mental health is health. Not an extra. Not an add-on. Not a luxury. As long as we have a system that ignores this, patients like this one will miss out on the services and support that they need and deserve. Something is wrong. And we need to talk with our legislators and insurance administrators to get it fixed.

What do you think? Does this story ring true for you? Has this been your experience? What do you think we should do? Please share stories and concrete action steps in the comments. Also, feel free to explore the rest of the Occupy Healthcare site for great action suggestions.

Broken

Photo Credit: Photo by GuySie

 

Dr. Ann Becker-Schutte is a licensed psychologist practicing in the Kansas City metro area. She specializes in providing support at the intersection of mental health. If you're facing a serious illness that is affecting the quality of your life and your relationships, her mission is to support your whole health!

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  • Carmen

    This is a solid “poster child” of what is wrong with our system. No one should have to choose between two aspects of health, which go hand-in-hand. With budget cuts regarding mental health care rampant, this phenomenon will grow worse.

    Already, in your state of Missouri, an additional $21.2 million in cuts to such services are in the works for 2012. Cathy Richards, in writing for the Columbias Daily Tribune, has detailed who the deep cuts will most affect, which include people who have committed serious crimes and who are in need of long-term mental care, along with the chronically mentally ill. (Read her account here from her Jan. 8th, 2012 article: http://www.columbiatribune.com/news/2012/jan/08/budgetary-disorder/).

    In the state of Kansas, Gov. Brownback has stated that his aim is “make our state more responsive to the needs of the business community.” Two major budgetary cuts are facing Kansas: education and mental health care. In a recent opinion essay written in the Topeka Capitol-Journal (January 11, 2012), the author cited a World Health Organization’s 2001 study (“Mental Health: New Understanding, New Hope”) which highlighted that mental health issues impair economic growth and development.

    No matter how you look at it, cutting mental health services undermines our personal and economic prosperity. Denying services for lack of insurance is a travesty we are all guilty of perpetuating. We must demand equity.

    • http://www.drannbeckerschutte.com/ DrBeckerSchutte

      Carmen,

      Thanks for your thoughtful reply–as always. Missouri psychologists have an annual day of advocacy at our State House, and I will be doing some additional phone calls and emails. My resolution is to continue to take action–to not allow the enormity of this to grind me into inaction.

      Warmly,
      Ann