Is mental health care too expensive?

Published on August 17, 2015

Have you ever asked yourself why you wanted to become a clinical psychologist, or a therapist, or a mental health care worker? Is it the reward of being the saviours of those tormented minds that come to you weekly/fortnightly/monthly? Your passion to help others took years to train, years of practice, years of study. And ultimately, you will be rewarded for the services you provide. Straight up, no less than a hundred bucks for a 60 minutes consultation.

According to the Australian Psychological Society National schedule of recommended fees (updated as of 1 July 2015), a 46-60 min consultation is about AUS$238. To some, that could be a week of their work salary, while it could also be 10 minutes of someone else’s daily work pay. No doubt those figures will secure your rice bowl (and a silver spoon to scoop the rice) and it also reflects the worthiness of your service. Neither are you charging too little, and in fact, it is of a reasonable amount because you are providing a service that can change or even save lives. But where are your services directed to? Who are your clients? It is clearly understandable that it is mission impossible to help everyone in the world, but is the mental health care system unconsciously made exclusive to middle upper class of society?

It is not only a matter about whether one can afford mental health treatment; financial circumstances could be a factor of mental illness as well. A research showed a correlation between poverty and underdeveloped brains. This research published in the journal JAMA paediatrics (2015), have found that children of lower income families have underdeveloped hippocampus, which could lead to long-term problems such as depression, anxiety, learning difficulties and issues dealing with stress. Nations are in fact coming together to help fight poverty, and in the long run, it might alleviate the issue of financial circumstances being a contributing factor to mental illness. However, is there something we can do at the moment to help those who are stricken with mental illness in lower income families? Does this mean they will never be treated?

There are avenues in which these people can turn to if they cannot afford the average therapy rate. They can turn to community or volunteering services for help from counsellors who are of a junior level. There are helplines we can dial if we need someone to hear us out in god’s speed. These little bit of help should not be dismissed. After all, these could be essential training grounds for future psychologists. But whether they will ever get professional help worth $200 is hard to say.

And if you think it’s only a personal issue within lower income families, think again. A study by U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (2013) has shown that a staggering 50% of insured and non-insured Americans can’t afford mental health treatment. A domino effect occurs: being unable to afford treatment, people will not go for treatment. It doesn’t take a Sherlock to figure that this is more likely to exacerbate their mental illness. Then who will help them? This is no longer a personal issue, but a nation-wide issue that has to be looked into.

It has always been a goal worldwide to prevent the rise of mental illness. The value of life is an understatement and its importance has withstood over time since Genesis. Why not nip it in the bud – prevent the cause of mental illness? There are ways in which we can do that, e.g. Parenting techniques, creating a safe and secure environment, be involved with supportive groups of people, etc.

Yet one has to note that even if we take all steps to ensure a positive environment for ourselves or others, some traumatic events are inevitable. There are reasons why accidents are called accidents; we simply do not have full control over what may befall on us. This is when the role of mental health care workers are crucial.

Empathy is key in this profession, and it is not hard for you professionals to understand their needs and situations. If convenient, maybe do some pro bono out of the schedule. Join a support group, or even better, create one. No one should be deprived of decent mental healthcare and maybe this little bit of time you fork out will not only enlighten those who need your help, but also re-enlighten your purpose as a mental healthcare worker.






Category(s):Mental Health Professions

Written by:

Melody Sit

Melody Sit is an undergraduate Psychology student from the University of Warwick. She is currently interning at Scott Psychological Centre in Singapore and she will complete her honours degree by mid 2016. An aspiring psychologists, she has an extensive volunteering work experience, in which she believes will better prepare her in achieving her goals.

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