The Problems with the Access to Mental Health Treatments

Ankeen Karakashian🦋
5 min readJun 2, 2021


Mental health issues have been increasing in the U.S. The most common mental health problems that patients report are suicide, depression, schizophrenia, and substance abuse. These disorders can develop over time due to family history or environmental factors such as the loss of a loved one. According to Shi and Singh (2017), in the U.S., one in five adults experience mental health disorders every year. 43.4 million adults reported mental health issues in the year 2015 and 62.1% of these people did not seek medical treatment. Total expenses for mental health disorders increased from $31 billion to $172 billion in 23 years.

Children also experience mental health disorders which can grow and turn into bigger issues. According to Mostafavi (2019), studies found that 1 in 7 children have mental illnesses which can be treated if adequately taken care of. However, half of the children in the United States have mental illnesses which are untreated. These disorders include ADHD, anxiety, and depression. Some doctors believe that these numbers might be higher since some mental health disorders might not be diagnosed yet.

The issue with mental health disorders is the lack of access to mental health professionals due to the shortage of availability of these professionals. Another problem is the cost of the services. uninsured patients receive care in a short period of time with high out-of-pocket costs. On the other hand, a patient who is insured can have access to mental health treatments in both inpatient and outpatient departments of the hospital. People who are insured are experiencing long wait times and have to travel long distances in order to see their doctors. Therefore, one of the many issues with access to mental health treatment is the long wait time before getting treatment, the long-distance travel to see an in-network provider, and the high out-of-pocket costs to see an out-of-network provider.

One of the issues with access to mental health treatment is the long wait time before getting the treatment. Patients with mental health issues such as depression or anxiety already experience adverse health issues which prevent them from performing their day-to-day activities. These issues require immediate assistance and long-term care. Patients with mental health issues experience a long period of wait times in order to see a provider. According to Reichert & Jacobs (2018), the long wait time is associated with deteriorating health outcomes of patients after accepting the treatments. Patients are experiencing strong effects of mental health issues after waiting an average of three months to see a professional. Patients who wait shorter, have better health outcomes.

Another issue is that many mental health professionals treat a large number of patients and do not have the availabilities to see new patients any time soon. According to Bogusz (2020), people are finding difficulties with looking for in-network mental health providers. This is due to the shortage of mental health professionals because these professionals do not get paid enough by the insurance companies. Therefore, these providers are usually picky when it comes to choosing to work with insurance companies. Mental health issues in the United States have increased and more professionals are in need to treat them.

Another reason why there is a lack of treatment for mental health issues is the long-distance travel to mental health facilities. There is a great lack of inpatient psychiatric facilities that can aid patients to get better. According to an article by Raphelson (2017), psychiatric beds have decreased by 14 percent from 2005 to 2010. This means that during that time there were only 14 beds available per 100,000 people. Another reason for why people travel long distance in order to seek treatment is the lack of hospitals which accept insurances to cover for psychiatric treatments. Therefore, many people just prefer going to the emergency room to seek quick treatment and 11% of people in the psychiatric ER need to be transferred however there are often no beds available.

The high out-of-pocket costs are another reason why there is an issue in access to mental health treatments. If patients are unable to see their in-network provider for any reason. They might see out-of-network providers who can treat them as soon as possible. However, people with mental health issues are less likely to seek treatment due to the fact that there is a lot of burdens. One of those burdens is the high out-of-pocket costs according to an article by Ostrow et al. (2014). The article by Ostrow et al. (2014) also states that people have a lack insurance coverage to mental health treatments and patients who experience mental health disorders die 25 years earlier on average than the general populations. These great out-of-pocket costs are usually not covered by insurance and they cost a lot of money because of the prescription drugs to treat the patients. Many patients lack in-network providers therefore they seek out network providers which cost a high amount of out-of-pocket amount. Patients who suffer from substance abuse paid on average $1,242 more per year for out-of-network care than those with diabetes. Patients with alcohol abuse paid an average of $1,138 out-of-pocket costs due to the lack of reimbursement rates.

To conclude, there are so many difficulties in which people with mental health issues experience while trying to access treatment. one of the many issues with access mental health treatment is the long wait time before getting treatment, the long-distance travel to see an in-network provider, and the high out of pocket costs to see an out of network provider. The lack of reimbursements through insurance companies to mental health professionals is a problem that is creating a barrier to a lot of patients do not seek treatment. Mental health is as important to treat as physical health and people need to make sure that children and adults are getting adequate treatments for these disorders.


Bogusz, G. B. (2020, March 13). Health insurers still don’t adequately cover mental health treatment. National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Mostafavi, B. (2019, February 18). Half of U.S. Children with Mental Health Disorders Are Not Treated. University of Michigan.

Ostrow, L., Manderscheid, R., & Mojtabai, R. (2014). Stigma and Difficulty Accessing Medical Care in a Sample of Adults. Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved 25(4), 1956–1965. doi:10.1353/hpu.2014.0185

Raphelson, S. (2017, November 30). How The Loss Of U.S. Psychiatric Hospitals Led To A Mental Health Crisis. NPR.

Reichert, A., & Jacobs, R. (2018, November 27). The impact of waiting time on patient outcomes: Evidence from early intervention in psychosis services in England. Health economics.

Shi, L., & Singh, D. A. (2017). Delivering Healthcare in America: A Systems Approach (7th

ed.). Jones & Bartlett Learning.



Ankeen Karakashian🦋

Freelance writer in Los Angeles, Ca. Healthcare Administration/Public Health Student. Interested in topics regarding health, wellness, technology, and lifestyle