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Overcoming barriers to access mental health care

Posted at 2:57 PM, May 18, 2021

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and experts say it’s a great time to speak to professionals and seek treatment if you or a loved one are struggling.

Dr. Hossam Mahmoud, Behavioral Health Medical Director for Regence BlueCross BlueShield says, “If you are struggling right now, know you are not alone. Millions of people are struggling especially in the context of this challenging year.”

Mahmoud says it is vital to prioritize your mental health and talk to someone you trust about what you are feeling or going through.

However, many Americans find that there are three main barriers preventing them from seeking the care they need including stigma, access and cost.

Mahmoud says, “despite the rise in support for mental health treatments, stigma still exists and continues to act as a deterrent to seeking care.”

Experts say many with mental health conditions have internalized stigma and shame that keep them from getting the help they need or from following through with the recommend steps to take once they do initially start some form of treatment.

“One of the best ways that we can address stigma is by talking about it and normalizing seeking mental health care and this month, during Mental Health Awareness month in May, is an excellent opportunity to do so,” says Mahmoud.

Another issue for some is that more mental health services are available in urban rather than rural areas.

Mahmoud says, “There aren’t enough mental health care providers out there, and the ones that do exist are actually concentrated in certain geographical regions.”

However, he says telehealth and many self-help therapies are allowing more people to access the tools they need.

As for the third major barrier – cost – Mahmoud says treatments can get expensive, but you should check with your healthcare provider to see if they have options that can help.

He says the key is to “Remember that help can come in a variety of forms. Depending on what you need, it could be having a conversation with a friend, or seeking out treatment with a professional.”