Barriers in the Access of Mental Health Treatment

An excellent health condition is one of the things that everyone wants to have. That is why at the first sign of abnormality or any difference, people seek help from healthcares to address their condition. However, the rising number of cases where citizens do not have access to healthcare indicates that somewhere along the way there is a problem. It is a wonder to some people that those who are treated for mental health problems, only few of those really need attention and services. The reason for this is that there are factors that serve as barriers in accessing mental health treatment.

The problems that are associated with accessing mental health treatments are persisting ones and not just recent developments. In discussing these problems, it is better to first examine the current structure of the United States’ mental health system and find out how it is that such problems occur in the healthcare sector. The U. S. mental health system consists of wide choices of services and treatments for people who are suffering from mental illnesses and even those who are at risk of having mental illnesses.

These services and treatments aim to help people to have healthier and productive lives. The mental health care system is staffed with diverse caregivers in “loosely coordinated facilities and services. ” The facilities and services in both public and private are termed as the de facto mental health service system. The system is composed of four sectors: the specialty mental health, the general medical/primary care, the human services, and the voluntary support network sector (U. S Public Health Service, n. d. ).

The special mental health sector is made up of psychologists, psychiatrists, addiction medicine specialists, and social workers who are trained specially for people who have mental illnesses. Much of the specialty treatment is provided in private office-based practices or public and private clinics (Council on Medical Service, 2001). In 1990, a study showed that 67 to 90 percent of people who suffer from schizophrenia visit the specialty sector. It is also visited by 71 to 84 percent of those who suffer from substance abuse and dependence, and 62 to 74 percent of those who suffer from antisocial personality.

On the other hand, only 52 to 61 percent of those who have affective disorders and 47 to 67 percent of those who have somatoform disorders visit the specialty sector (Mechanic, 1990, p. 63). The specialty sector in private psychiatric hospitals offers intensive care for children and adolescents. Specialty sector in public setting, on the other hand, consists of mental health facilities and state/county mental hospitals that offer various services. It is found out that less than six percent of adults and eight percent of children and adolescents use the specialty sector each year (Council on Medical Service, 2001).

The general medical or primary sector is made up of pediatricians, general internists and nurse practitioners who work in office-based clinics and practice, and nursing homes. Studies revealed that only six percent of adults use the general sector for mental health treatment. In addition, there were only four visits a year, compared to 14 visits per year in a specialty sector. The general sector is considered as the “initial point of contact” for adults (U. S Public Health Service, n. d. ).

Another study showed that the majority of people who have mental illness seek care from the general sector (Mechanic, 1990, p. 62). The human services sector includes rehabilitation services, social services, criminal justice services, clergy, and counseling services. The school mental health services are used by 16% of children with mental illnesses while three percent use the child welfare (Council on Medical Service, 2001). The voluntary support network sector includes self-help groups such as peer counselors.

A study conducted by the Epidemiologic Catchment Area (ECA) showed that about one percent of adults utilized self-help groups (U. S Public Health Service, n. d. ). There are many factors that explain why people do not have better access to mental health treatment. Some of the factors that will be discussed include language barrier, insurance, mental health services cost and coverage, dropout rates from treatment, dissatisfaction with services, and cultural divide. It must be noted that problems are not limited to those that are already mentioned.

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