Friday, December 5, 2014

Study highlights lack of access to mental health care

By Arshya Vahabzadeh,MD 

A new study from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics once again highlights that too many people living with mental health conditions are not getting needed care.

Study authors Laura A. Pratt, PhD, and Debra J. Brody, MPH, found that nearly 8% of Americans aged 12 and up had depression (moderate or severe depressive symptoms in the past 2 weeks). The rate of depression was twice as high among people living below the poverty level, 15%.

 Far more alarming, the study showed yet again that people with depression are going untreated. While nearly 90% of people with severe depressive symptoms reported difficulty with work, home, or social activities related to their symptoms, only about one-third (35.3%) had seen a mental health professional in the past year, according to the study. Among those with moderate depressive symptoms, only 1 in 5 had seen a mental health professional.

While there are many reasons people don’t get needed mental health care, including mental health stigma and lack of access, discrimination in mental health coverage by insurance companies shouldn’t be among the reasons. Federal law now requires that insurers cover mental health illnesses the same as physical ailments, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

However, many people don’t know their rights when it comes to getting mental health treatment. To address this glaring problem, the American Psychiatric Association has released a new poster --
available to mental health professionals -- that explains in simple terms your rights under the law and what to do if you think your rights are being denied. Download a copy at

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