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 travel over to the Occupy Healthcare site for great action suggestions.
Photo Credit: Photo by GuySie