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The True Cost of Mental Health
It’s no secret that mental health is pretty “trendy” in 2022.
We are inundated with social posts and advertisements for meditation apps, CBD gummies, and “that girl” morning routines. And while there is space for all of these within our overall self-care practices, the reality is that adequate treatment for mental health goes far beyond green smoothies, sunrise yoga classes, and positive affirmations.
Despite the fact that conversations about mental health are more common than ever, it is also more obvious than ever that mental health has long been put on the backburner of our society. With the celebration of a “grind never stops” mentality and a direct correlation between productivity and self-worth, many of us have fallen into a practice of neglecting our mental health in order to climb the corporate and social ladders in our lives.
The result? 1 in 5 Americans currently struggle with mental illness, and despite the fact that it is costing us billions in medical bills, prescriptions, therapy sessions, and lost income, we continue to experience a scarcity of accessible mental health resources.
And with a scarcity of mental health resources comes escalated mental health concerns, and in turn, exacerbated impact on our mental health, career, finances, relationships, and overall well being.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and Her First $100K is spending the month sharing resources, tools, and strategies to help our community improve their mental health. Today we are examining how our mental health affects our career and finances, breaking down the comprehensive cost of mental health, and exploring ways to make mental healthcare more accessible and affordable.
Join the HFK Mental Health Challenge! Every Monday – Friday throughout the first three weeks of May, we will provide you with a unique challenge to help improve your mental health!
Why mental health matters
With 20% of Americans and nearly 11% of the global population struggling with a mental health concern, it is not surprising that mental health disorders are one of the most pervasive diagnoses worldwide. But the reality is that, whether we have received a formal mental health diagnosis or not, mental health has a significant impact on every aspect of every one of our lives.
The CDC says: “Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.”
As a platform for career and financial resources, we are especially aware of the impact that our mental health has on our ability to thrive financially and in our career
If you have been part of the Her First $100K community for some time, then you are probably familiar with our tagline, “fighting the patriarchy by making you rich.” As we continue to navigate this conversation about mental health, keep this tagline in mind.
Our fight against the patriarchy and our pursuit of financial wellness is not sustainable or achievable without first having the resources and information to promote our mental health.
The cost of mental health
According to the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, people who struggle with depression are 4.2 times more likely to still have debt at 18-months compared to their counterparts who do not experience depression. Additionally, impulsive spending is a mechanism used by many who experience depression and anxiety to cope.
Not only does poor mental health affect our ability to manage our money well, but it can also limit our earning potential and professional opportunities. People who are struggling with their mental health are more likely to call-in sick to work, and often for longer periods. Additionally, the mental strain of dealing with a mental health concern can often lead to a lack of productivity in the workplace and a general decline in performance.
Because of these factors, depression and anxiety disorders are estimated to cost $1 trillion in lost productivity globally each year, and people struggling with a mental health concern are two to three times more likely to be unemployed than their peers who are not.
It is also important to consider that many people experiencing mental or emotional health issues require around the clock care. These caregiving responsibilities often fall on the shoulders of family members, and the additional responsibilities may cause them to feel exhausted and burnt out, resulting in a decreased work performance. In fact, it has been found that caregivers of adults with mental or emotional health issues will spend an average of 32 hours per week providing the unpaid care, which may lead them to being unable to maintain a job altogether.
Click here to read more about how mental health affects financial wellbeing.
In addition to the price many of us pay as we balance our mental health and career, we must also take into consideration the literal cost of mental health services and resources.
Despite mental health being such a pervasive concern, accessibility to appropriate resources continues to be limited, and is often only available at a high price.
One of the most frequently recommended treatment options for mental health concerns is traditional talk therapy. But with an hour-long therapy session ranging in price anywhere from $65 to $250 and with many providers operating outside of the health insurance system, affording treatment can be difficult for those with and without insurance alike.
Even those who can afford therapy a few times a month may find it difficult to receive treatment as more than 112 million Americans live in parts of the country where access to mental health providers are extremely limited. In fact, according to CNBC, the US is projected to experience a shortage of mental health professionals through 2025.
This inaccessibility to mental health resources continues to perpetuate the mental health crisis which, in turn, impacts our ability to thrive in our day-to-day lives.
What can we do to reduce the cost of mental health?
With the rising cost of mental health, achieving a holistic, balanced, and healthy mental state can feel less and less accessible. But with a decline in mental health also comes a decline in financial wellness, career growth, healthy relationships, and so much more.
Because of the way that our mental health impacts every part of our lives, we need to find ways to make mental health resources more accessible for all. While there may not be a perfect solution just yet, there are a few things we can do personally to improve our community’s access to mental health information and resources.
Reduce the stigma surrounding mental health
Despite the fact that awareness of mental health is more common now than ever, many people continue to feel judged for struggling with their mental health. By engaging in transparent conversations and holding space for people to share about their mental health concerns, we will continue to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health so that no one will feel judged for needing mental health care and resources.
Improve the standard for mental health accommodations in the workplace
With mental health impacting the performance of so many within the workforce, it is of benefit to workplaces and employers to provide mental health accommodations for their employees. From including paid mental health days into benefit packages to hosting mindfulness workshops to having a mental health professional on staff, many businesses are finding creative ways to incorporate mental healthcare into their business model and are seeing the benefits.
For example, Barclays launched their “This is Me” campaign which shares employee stories in order to create transparency and show all members of their team that they aren’t alone in their mental health struggles. Since the launch of the campaign, the amount of Barclays employees seeking mental health resources has increased, and in turn so has their employee retention.
Additionally, employers should be encouraged to include more comprehensive mental health coverage options in their health insurance plans and could even incorporate a rewards structure for employees who proactively prioritize their mental health by going to therapy, utilizing a meditation app, or maintaining a gym membership.
Make mental health resources more accessible
As long as we continue to experience a shortage of mental health care providers, we will continue to pay an exorbitantly high cost for mental health care and resources. In order to lower the cost of mental health, we need to make mental health services and resources more accessible.
Now we know that this is easier said than done, and many of these action items may feel outside the scope of the individual, but these are things we can keep in mind as we participate in our local and state elections, donate to charitable organizations, and operate within our communities.
Insurance companies should increase the rate that they pay to licensed mental health professionals in order to bring down the public cost of therapy services.
The first place that many people seek help regarding their mental health concerns is at their primary care doctor. We should increase the training done between mental health professionals and primary care doctors to ensure that they have the information and resources they need to administer appropriate mental health care.
We should continue to develop alternate, more affordable forms of mental health care such as telehealth services like Talkspace.
Interested in using the month of May to prioritize your mental health? Join the Her First $100K Mental Health Challenge! Each weekday between now and May 20, you will receive a challenge directly to your inbox that will help you improve your mental health!