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The Cost of Mental Health

Something that really bothers me with having a mental illness is how damn expensive it is. I am medicated and I see a psychologist about every 3 weeks. Now, I am fortunate that through my employer I have a healthcare spending account, but I am going to run it out before the end of the year on my mental health alone. That's without including the dentist, my other medications, and any other appointments I may need (I was a dancer for 13 years, trust and believe there are many to help prevent my body from falling apart). Now I am lucky to have a family that would help financially support my medical bills if push came to shove, but not everyone has that option.

Here are some of the things (at least the ones that I've come across) that come into consideration for those living with mental illness.

Therapy. This is probably one of the most costly items. In a lot of insurance plans, only appointments with a registered psychologist or social work can be submitted. Of course, these are two of the most expensive options. Counsellors are a far cheaper option and often have the same level of training as other mental health professionals, however since there is no governing body for them insurance plans tend to not cover them. In my personal experience, having a good therapist has had the biggest impact on my mental health, but they come with a high financial cost in addition to having extremely high wait times.

Medication. This is probably the cost that most people think of. For me this cost is not too high, but I am on a generic version of one medication. This is not an option for all people. I know someone who is on five different medications for her mental illness. Those add up, especially if you are in a country like the United States.

Housing. For a lot of people this probably isn't a thing they often relate to mental health, but I know for me the housing situation I am in has a huge affect on my mental health. This is probably going to make me sound snobby, but whenever I look for housing (be that apartments or when I was looking to buy a place) I had to be extra choosy because I knew that if I didn't like where I was living it was only going to worsen my mental health. And of course all of the places that I like (for various reasons including updated kitchens. natural light, etc.) come at a higher cost.

Exercise. As much as I want to deny it (my butt is in an extremely co-dependant relationship with my couch), exercise plays a large role in mental health. That comes with costs for equipment such as proper clothes and shoes, as well as memberships to gyms or different fitness classes. Believe me when I say, these do not come cheap. Yes, there are ways to lower this cost but it is still a cost that exists.

Food. The food that you eat can play a part in how your brain is operating. Mental illness has to do with chemicals in your brain. If you break down food in a sciencey enough way, it is all chemicals. Again much to my chagrin, fats and sugars do not help mental health, but healthier foods tend to cost more and take longer to prepare.

Self Care. I know that this is a term that is thrown around a lot to excuse indulgent behaviour, but for people living with mental illness this is a real part of life. My biggest form of self care is my pets. I have a cat and dog for whom I need to by food. They also come with vet bills. My dog in particular is a rescue and due to previous abuse needs to be fully sedated for every nail trim. Believe me when I say that isn't cheap.

I know that this has turned into a bit of a rant, but living with mental illness is frustrating. There's no way around it. When you live with an illness, or multiple illnesses, that isn't deemed to be worth the same level of care as other illnesses it can get to be extremely frustrating.

So, what can we do about it? Write to your elected representatives. Tell them that mental health is just as important as physical health and deserves to be treated with the same level of respect. Suicide is one of the leading causes of death for people aged 15-44, and we are losing thousands of people every year. Mental illness is a leading cause of disability and is costing countries billions in GDP every year. It is far past time we treat mental illness as the crisis that it is.

Please don't suffer in silence. Tell your story. Whether to a loved one, a stranger on the internet, or an elected official. Make sure that people know the real affects of mental illness. It is a crisis that has already happened.




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