APA poll: Most Americans have sought mental health treatment but cost, insurance still barriers

05/13/04

Nearly half of Americans have had someone in their household seek mental health treatment, but most still perceive cost and lack of insurance coverage as barriers according to national poll results released today by the American Psychological Association (APA). The poll also shows that stigma about seeking mental health treatment is increasingly less of a barrier to getting treatment.

Nearly half (48%) of American households have had someone see a mental health professional and nine out of 10 Americans say they are likely to consult or recommend a mental health professional if they or a family member are experiencing a problem.

Those polled say lack of insurance coverage (87%) and concerns about the cost of treatment (81%) are important reasons not to seek help from a mental health professional. More and more Americans (85%) think health insurance should cover mental health services, up from 79% when asked the same question in December 2000. And access to those mental health services is very important to 97% of those polled, although only 70% say they feel they have adequate access to mental health care.

The poll shows that only 30% of Americans say they would be concerned about other people finding out if they saw a mental health professional and only 20% believe there is any stigma associated with therapy. Nearly half (47%) say that the stigma surrounding mental health services has decreased in recent years, and the media gets the most credit for that (35%), although society in general (25%) seems to be more accepting as well.

"We've made progress in people's attitudes toward getting mental health treatment, or seeking it for their loved ones," said Russ Newman, PhD, JD, APA's executive director for professional practice. "But cost, lack of insurance, and access still can be barriers for people in getting the help they need."

Lack of access can range from health care plans whose criteria make it nearly impossible to have adequate mental health treatment, to scarcity of qualified health care professionals. For example, in Louisiana, waiting time to see a psychiatrist averages as long as six months. That state's governor last week signed a law allowing specially-trained psychologists to prescribe medication to people with mental health disorders in mental health treatment, thereby, expanding the pool of qualified medical professionals who can prescribe psychotropic medicines to those in need.

The survey of 1,000 Americans was conducted by Penn Schoen & Berland on January 26-27. All respondents were between the ages of 18 and 64 years old. The margin of error for the study is 3.1 at the 95th percent level.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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