According to a 2018 study by BRAMA, it is estimated that 42% of American adults have received counseling services at some point in their lives. That breaks down to about 1.4 million people—more than the entire population of Montana. Additionally, of those who have not already sought out therapy, 37% of adults are open to the idea of counseling. It is believed that these rates would be even higher except for a lack of access to care. Mental Health America reports that 56% of adults who desired or required mental health care did not have the financial or physical means to receive it.
Let that one sink in. Less than half of the adult population that could benefit from counseling services do not or can not receive it.
Thankfully this trend is shifting. With changes in mental health stigma, expansion to insurance resources for those who are economically challenged, and an increase in providers, more and more people are receiving the services they need. In 2017 there was a 5% decrease in adults whose insurance did not cover mental health treatment. There is a strong correlation between increasing access to services and increasing the number of clients who actually use this service. Research done by Mental Health America shows Montana is slightly ahead of the curve with 48% of our adult population having sought out and received mental health services. And, unlike the national average of 11.8% only 7.8% of our population is uninsured. However, we are only ranked 29th overall in access to mental health care. When it comes to prevalence of mental illness we come in 34th. Montana is slightly better than the national average of 1 in 5 Americans who struggle with some sort of mental health issue.
Throughout our state thousands of people are seeking guidance and help for a wide range of conditions relating to mental health. ADHD, ADD, Autism, Alcohol and Drug addiction, stress, depression, anxiety, traumatic events, abuse, learning disabilities, pain management, adjustment disorders, and behavioral problems are just a few reasons people look towards counseling for help. Both children and adults can find guidance, peace of mind, and solutions aided by a counselor.
There is obviously still room for improvement in both our state’s and country’s mental health system. There is clearly a large desire for services, a desire that is not being balanced with available resources. Our hope is that this divide will be closed in the near future, and systems will be put in place to meet the mental health needs of our population.
For those of us that are already involved in counseling, whether it be through receiving or providing the services, thank you. Together we can help promote both personal and big-picture change for ourselves and our community through increased mental health care.
Photo: Health Professional Shortage Areas: Mental Health, Rural Health Information Hub