6 common reasons people avoid mental health treatment: a psychiatrist weighs in

6 common reasons people avoid mental health treatment: a psychiatrist weighs in

Mental healthcare is healthcare. But only 60% of American's who need care, access it. In this article, we’ll dig into the most common barriers to finding help.

Reviewed by:
Austin Lin, MD
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April 10, 2023
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Key takeaways

You wouldn’t think twice about seeing a doctor for a broken bone, right? But when it comes to our mental health, things are different. 60% of people with a diagnosable mental health condition don’t get treatment. The most common reasons people don’t seek care: stigma, cost, lack of access, and misinformation about what mental health care is and what it can do. The truth: mental health care is health care.

In this article, we’ll dig into the most common barriers to getting help.

1. Mental health treatment can't help me

Mental health care is a science, just like physical health care. And just as treatments for physical conditions like broken bones or diabetes are effective, treatments for mental health conditions are effective as well. But you don’t just have to take our word for it- there's research to back it up!  

70-90% of people will have fewer symptoms and a better quality of life after receiving mental health treatment. Specifically after being treated with a combination of medication and psychosocial treatment (like cognitive behavioral therapy), according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.  

If you're thinking: what if I'm in the 10-30%? Just like eating right can reduce your odds of having a heart attack, there are steps you can take to increase your chances of successful mental health treatment. Chat with your doctor about your concerns. You deserve to feel like yourself again and chances are treatment will help (the science says so).  

2. Once I start mental health treatment, I'll be in it for the rest of my life

While it’s true that some mental health conditions require long-term treatment and management, others may require a shorter treatment period. Conditions like anxiety and depression, for example, can typically be treated over a period of months whereas conditions like schizophrenia may require long-term monitoring. Bottom line: the length of your treatment will depend on your condition and severity. Seeking treatment as early as possible will give you the best possible chance of recovery and it’s never too late to seek help.  

3. Will a mental health diagnosis follow me on my permanent record?

Roughly 50% of Americans are diagnosed with a mental health condition at some point in their lifetime. So while your diagnosis is nothing to be ashamed of, who you share it with is always your own choice. Rest assured, there is no universal health record that follows you everywhere you go. Thanks to a healthcare law called HIPAA, your medical records are always kept private and are only ever shared with your health insurance company or medical providers as needed. Your mental health diagnoses will never be shared with anyone, like your employer, friends, or family without your consent.  

4. My doctor will make me take medication

Medication is not your only option when it comes to getting treatment for a mental health condition. Psychotherapy or, talk therapy, is also an effective treatment. Your provider knows that the best treatment plan is one you are comfortable sticking to, so if you have concerns about starting medication, it’s ok to be upfront about it. You should never feel like medications are being forced on you and if you do, try switching to a new provider who makes you feel listened to.  

5. I can’t afford it

If you don’t have the financial means to pay out of pocket for mental health services, you’re not alone. Luckily, there are easy steps you can take to find mental health care that is affordable. Health plans are required to cover mental health care, so if you have insurance, call them and they can walk you through what you can expect to pay for mental health treatment. Your insurer can also provide you with a list of in-network providers. It might take a few emails or phone calls to find a provider that accepts your insurance and has availability, but don’t get discouraged. The effort will be worth it! If you’re looking for an easy way to find a psychiatrist that takes your insurance, Talkiatry can help. Get started here.    

6. I don’t have time

Hey- we get it. Between work, family obligations, and life in general, it can be hard to find time to see a doctor. But there are so many benefits to prioritizing your mental health and ultimately, treatment will help restore some balance to your life.  

Virtual mental health care can be a great solution to a busy schedule. You can receive the same quality of care without the long commute. There are a growing number of providers offering virtual care but if you’d still prefer to see someone in-person, many providers have appointment times on the weekends, early mornings, and evenings so you can fit in your sessions outside of work hours.  

The takeaway

Getting mental health treatment can feel intimidating and overwhelming. You’re about to start a brand new journey! It’s understandable to have concerns. But healing is possible and you deserve to feel like yourself again. We encourage you to take the first step and book an appointment with your healthcare provider. Bring your questions and concerns to your first appointment and your provider will help you explore different treatment options.  

About Talkiatry

Talkiatry is a national psychiatry practice that provides in-network, virtual care. Co-founded by a patient and a triple-board-certified psychiatrist, Talkiatry has over 300 doctors, 60 insurance partners, and first visits available in days. We treat patients with anxiety, depression, trauma, ADHD, and more. Get started with a short online assessment.  

The information in this article is for informational and educational purposes only and should never be substituted for medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment. If you or someone you know may be in danger, call 911 or the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 right away.

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Frequently asked questions

Does Talkiatry take my insurance?

We're in network with major insurers, including:

  • Aetna
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield
  • Cigna
  • Humana
  • Medicare
  • Oscar
  • United Healthcare
  • Optum
  • Compsych

Even if your insurer isn't on the list, we might still accept it. Use the insurance eligibility checker in our online assessment to learn more.

Can I get an estimate of my visit cost?

The best way to get a detailed estimate of your cost is to contact your insurance company directly, since your cost will depend on the details of your insurance.  

For some, it’s just a co-pay. If you have an unmet deductible it could be more.  

Call the number on your insurance card and ask about your plan’s coverage for outpatient psychiatric services.

What kind of treatment does Talkiatry provide?

At Talkiatry, we specialize in psychiatry, meaning the diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions. Your psychiatrist will meet with you virtually on a schedule you set together, devise a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs and preferences, and work with you to adjust your plan as you meet your goals.

If your treatment plan includes medication, your psychiatrist will prescribe and manage it. If needed, your psychiatrist can also refer you to a Talkiatry therapist.

What's the difference between a therapist and psychiatrist?

Psychiatrists are doctors who have specialized training in diagnosing and treating complex mental health conditions through medication management. If you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, PTSD, or similar, a psychiatrist may be a good place to start.  

Other signs that you should see a psychiatrist include:  

  • Your primary care doctor or another doctor thinks you may benefit from the services of a psychiatrist and provides a referral    
  • You are interested in taking medication to treat a mental health condition  
  • Your symptoms are severe enough to regularly interfere with your everyday life

The term “therapist” can apply to a range of professionals including social workers, mental health counselors, psychologists, professional counselors, marriage and family therapists, and psychoanalysts. Working with a therapist generally involves regular talk therapy sessions where you discuss your feelings, problem-solving strategies, and coping mechanisms to help with your condition.

How does Talkiatry compare to face-to-face treatment?

For most patients, Talkiatry treatment is just as effective as in-person psychiatry (American Psychiatric Association, 2021), and much more convenient. That said, we don’t currently provide treatment for schizophrenia, primary eating disorder treatment, or Medication Assisted Treatment for substance use disorders.

Who can prescribe medication?

All our psychiatrists (and all psychiatrists in general) are medical doctors with additional training in mental health. They can prescribe any medication they think can help their patients. In order to find out which medications might be appropriate, they need to conduct a full evaluation. At Talkiatry, first visits are generally scheduled for 60 minutes or more to give your psychiatrist time to learn about you, work on a treatment plan, and discuss any medications that might be included.

Austin Lin, MD

Dr. Austin Lin is a double board-certified adult and addiction psychiatrist who has been in practice for over 9 years. At the center of Dr. Lin’s clinical approach is a strong emphasis on establishing trust and using a collaborative approach to help patients develop an individualized and cohesive plan so that they are able to achieve their goals.

Dr. Lin's practice focuses on medication management. Typically, he offers this in conjunction with supportive therapy, motivational interviewing, and/or cognitive behavioral therapy in 30-minute follow-up visits. Occasionally, Dr. Lin may recommend that additional therapy is needed and ask that you bring a therapist into your care team in order to provide the best outcome.

Dr. Lin received his medical degree from St. George’s University School of Medicine. He went on to complete his residency in psychiatry at Harvard South Shore, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School, where he served as Chief Resident and earned his 360° Professionalism award. He then had additional training in Addiction Psychiatry through his fellowship at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. After completing training, Dr. Lin has worked as an Addiction Psychiatrist and Director of Adult Services in the Trauma and Resilience Center (TRC) at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). He specialized in treating patients with a history of depression, anxiety, trauma, and substance use disorders.

Dr. Lin has held an academic appointment at UTHealth, and he has spent his professional career supervising and teaching medical students and psychiatry residents.

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