OpEd: Do Government and Insurance Companies Really Care About Mental Health?

mental health
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I have struggled with mental health, with anxiety, panic attacks, and major depressive disorder.

I work out, I meditate, I have a therapist, and I have tried herbal supplements, yoga, acupuncture, massage, CBD products, self-help, and cognitive behavioral health books, all with minimal results.

I consulted a psychiatrist, who was covered under my insurance with a $60 copay, as psychiatrists are specialists. I said I had “panic attacks” and within 10 minutes I was tossed a prescription for an anti-depressant. When I returned with concerns about side effects I was experiencing, and the medication’s ineffectiveness, I was tossed a prescription for a higher dose of the same medication. 

I sought better help, as I was physically and mentally unable to work and function as a normal 22-year-old. I was confined to my house; leaving meant gambling with the feeling that the sky might fall or I would hyperventilate, cry, and cause a scene in public. These attacks seemingly had no reason and they were debilitating. They left me feeling isolated, and I stopped wanting to do anything, including showering and eating.

I found a highly rated psychiatrist. He did not accept most insurances, but at this point that did not matter. This is usually because insurance companies will pay the doctor very little, or fight payments, sometimes leaving patients to foot the bill. My family and I are lucky enough to have paid out-of-pocket, but some people aren’t. 

I cannot imagine what it is like to be told “you need help” but the cost is too high. To be told a new medication that has vastly improved your condition will be over a thousand dollars a month, even with insurance. To try to find an affordable ketamine infusion or psychiatric facility to avoid suicide, then learn your insurance isn’t accepted, or you’re not guaranteed a bed. And if you did get a bed, it will likely come with copays, deductibles, and surprise bills. Although I am doing much better, it’s been hell and has cost me thousands of dollars. 

When I see commercials saying New York cares, politicians care, the pharmaceutical companies care, I think that they collectively have no souls.

The course to fix mental health and rising addiction and suicide rates must be threefold:

First, the cost of psychiatric medications, ketamine infusions, psychologists, and psychiatrists needs to be lowered for patients by being covered adequately, and appropriately, by insurance. 

Second, the homelessness crisis needs to be seriously addressed. If they are receiving treatment through government insurance, this should not affect that treatment.

Third, the stigma of mental health must be diminished. The corporations, insurance companies, and politicians saying they care display differently through their actions. Other spending can be cut to free up funds for mental health. 

I hope my words reach them. But I believe this is going to fall on deaf ears. So if you or someone you know has been impacted by mental illness, please be kind to one another and be part of the change the system so desperately needs.

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