JAzmyne Casillas, 23, describes her mental health issues as “pretty harmful”. She was diagnosed with autism, borderline personality disorder, comorbidity with bipolar 2, depression and anxiety. She also has trouble forming long-term memories. “There are cycles where things go well, but the moment I fall into a depression, my life and everything I do crumbles,” she says.
She knows she needs a good therapist and medication: “I’m pretty sure that if I could get medication to manage bipolar 2 and generalized anxiety, my life would improve considerably: I wouldn’t have to worry so much or anticipate depression.” cycles so often and I wouldn’t be so paralyzed by a lot of adult choices that I have to make.
Casillas used to get mental health treatment through the foster care system, but was left on her own after turning 21. Now a freshman in Nebraska, she doesn’t have health insurance and can’t afford treatment. “Finding a good therapist would be expensive, probably $500 to $600 a month where I live,” she says, “not including possible drug prescriptions. To cope, she leans on her fiancée for emotional support – “She helps a plotbut most of the time it’s even hard to get out of bed.
Casillas is part of a cohort of young people who report higher rates of mental illness than previous generations, but are unable to get the help they need.
According to federal data, between 2008 and 2019, the number of teenagers between the ages of 12 and 17 who reported having had at least one major depressive episode almost doubled, and suicide rates among people between the ages of 10 and 24 increased. by 47%.
A January study by McKinsey found that Gen Z respondents were twice as likely as older adults to report feeling “emotionally distressed” and two to three times more likely to report considering or attempting suicide between end of 2019 and end of 2020. Respondents also said they could not afford mental health services, and the study found that Gen Z was the age group least likely to report having sought professional treatment. in mental health, in part because of its perceived high cost.
“It’s weird,” says Casillas, “you would think that with more people talking the cost would go down, but it seems like it just got more expensive over time.”
The young people who are policyholders spend more. Although those under 25 make up 36% of the U.S. population, they contributed 42% of all health plan spending on mental health and addiction treatment in 2020, according to new data from the Employee Benefit Research Institute.
Economist Paul Fronstin, author of the study, said that while more employers had added mental health coverage to their benefits, the costs had not always gone down. “More and more employers are moving people’s health plans from a low deductible to a high deductible [the amount you have to pay before the insurance kicks in]. And that would increase your out-of-pocket mental health expenses,” he told the Guardian.
A recent national survey of Americans in therapy by Verywell Mind found that patients spent an average of $178 per month on therapy costs alone – in addition to a median of $40 per month on medications. But while Gen Z is more receptive to therapy than older generations, the survey found that 57% said they might have to stop therapy if their costs increase, and 48% said they pay therapy with the financial help of someone else.
Amy Morin, a registered social worker and editor of Verywell Mind, said increased demand for therapy has been met with a limited supply of therapists.
“A lot of therapists are burning out,” she told the Guardian. Another issue is low pay: “As a therapist, I can say that sometimes insurance company reimbursement rates are so low that therapists can’t pay their bills, so a lot of therapists don’t take only cash, which creates a shortage for many people who have insurance.
This problem is acutely felt in less densely populated areas. “Sometimes insurance companies can have two in-network therapists within a 100 mile radius. So someone might find out that these two therapists have very long waiting lists, because it only takes maybe one or two companies to have a huge list of employees who all have the same insurance, and they are all competing for the same couple of therapists,” says Morin. “Or maybe you have a preference for someone who specializes in something specific like OCD, but their closest in-network therapists may be hundreds of miles away.”
A similar dynamic applies to psychiatrists: A 2014 study by the Journal of American Medical Association Psychiatry found that nearly half of psychiatrists do not accept insurance due to low reimbursement rates. And psychiatrists also have less incentive to care for patients with complex mental illnesses, according to a Bloomberg report.
For young people without money to treat their mental illness, the alternative is more or less DIY. “A lot of Gen Z deal with it by being nihilistic and escaping on social media, which exacerbates it even more,” says Casillas. “Most students and people close to me, however, seem to rely on a support network of friends, relatives and loved ones, while keeping track of their minds and taking days off. mental health when needed.”
Casillas’ hope is that she can one day land a job with mental health benefits: “I chose to major in secondary education specifically so I could look for jobs after graduation that had a package of health services that included mental health.”
For now, though, there’s not much to do but hang on. “I can’t say that I even really manage. I’m just trying to carry on and hope for the best until I graduate from college and hopefully find a job before the next cycle of depression hits.
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