I’ve mentioned in my previous blogs that, despite wanting care for my mental disorder, I am one of the unfortunate many don’t have the access to the kind of healthcare that can get me the help I need. Now, I’ve lived fine without help since my freshman year of high school, so I have a lot of people asking me why I have such a strong desire for help.
(I don’t think people understand that “fine” isn’t just being able to function in normal life. Fine has a deeper and more nuanced meaning, I think, and I wish more people would understand that, even if they live life normally, a person also has thoughts and feelings that many people don’t get to hear. Fine doesn’t cover these complexities.)
I can answer their questions through my closest friend, Neil, who, like myself, wasn’t able to afford proper healthcare for a long, long time. He wanted it, but knew he could live without it, even if it made life more difficult. But the chance to start therapy approached him one day, and he jumped on it immediately. (There was a charity event in Chicago, which raised money to offer transgender teenagers a free, set amount of therapy sessions. Neil was one of the lucky teenagers that made the cut.)
For a while, he was able to get the help he needed. He saw a therapist every week and it was good. He was good. Life felt better for him, the world coming into a better focus. Like getting a brand new prescription of glasses, he could suddenly see the leaves in the trees and every other little miniscule nuance the world produces. Things made sense again.
But those sessions were limited, and when they ran out, he could no longer afford to see his therapist, a person who had guided him through incredibly hard times and whom he had a great rapport with. Suddenly, it was like his glasses had been taken away altogether and he was blind, like Velma in Scooby Doo as she stumbles through the dark.
“Where are my glasses? I can’t see without my glasses!” A particularly villainous boot steps down on the glasses, the lens shattering with a solemn crunch. As a kid, I thought it was a funny joke, a good running gag as running gags go. Now I hold my own glasses with a little more caution.
This story of people with mental illness wanting so badly to get help, but not being able to afford the help is far too common. Different people, different stories, and we’re all tied together by this lack of opportunity. In fact, according to the Washington Post, over 45 percent of untreated people cited that the cost of mental health services is what kept them from being treated.
“A quarter of the 15.7 million Americans who received mental health care listed themselves as the main payer for the services, according to one survey that looked at those services from 2005 to 2009. The majority of those who did seek outpatient treatment had out-of-pocket costs between $100 and $5,000,” says the Washington Post.
The cost of my life seems to simply only be adding up to one large number. I sometimes wonder: is the the worth of my life? Or is this the debt I owe the world for simply existing and taking up space? I don’t know the answer, but I also can’t stop the number from rising exponentially every year. I guess I’ll never find out until the end.
Every time something bad happens, I hear a lot politicians making my illness into a political statement. Like my mental health is just one more way to get voters on their side. They talk a lot of big game about changing the mental health system, making sure people get the help they need. Has change happened? Of course not.
Like almost every other kind of medical treatment, mental health care is incredibly overpriced. There are actually areas in the United States that are called “Mental Health Professional Shortage Areas”. And do you know how many Americans live in these areas? 89.3 million people. It’s simple supply and demand, capitalism easily sinking its teeth into another comfort we shouldn’t have to fight for.
Capitalism ruins a lot of things. I just can’t believe that our health is one of them.
You know how I talked about politicians griping about the state of our mental health systems? Well, rest assured that the previous generation of politicians had a hand in creating the world we live in now. Back in the 1960s, a new law was created in order to promote more community based mental health services. Sounds like a good idea, right? It would’ve been if it hadn’t meant that almost all government-funded mental institutions were forced to close as a result. (This topic is covered more on my previous post, Mental Disability in the Face of Homelessness.)
Like capitalism, the government also ruins a lot of things.
Without going into a lot of number logistics, the lack of caring in regarding to mental illnesses, the lack of mental health care professionals, and the lack of politicians who care about these problems creates a concoction that facilitates a very expensive mental health care system.
We’re forced to pay for our place in the world. Life isn’t priceless; it’s just more than what most of us can pay.