Young adults face barriers in accessing mental health care

Noelle Broughton is an accomplished student. She is in a graduate program at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and is heading towards a PhD.

It also fights against anxiety and self-doubt. As a child, she had a few therapy sessions, but they didn’t last. Now, at 25, she wants to try treatment again before heading to the University of Kansas for her doctorate in public administration.

“But once I took the plunge to do it, I realized how difficult it was,” said Broughton. “It sometimes seems impossible to me.”

Broughton was looking for a mental health service provider who was a woman, a person of color and networked with her health insurance. She was unlucky last year.

“I feel like every time I find someone who ticks two of those boxes, maybe they don’t tick the third box,” said Broughton.

So, as she prepares to move west, she wonders if seeking treatment is worth it.

She’s not alone – many other young adults face similar challenges when it comes to mental health services, especially when they suddenly lose the support of school counselors.

Jedediah Carter grew up in a rural town with limited mental health care, but support from his family helped him finish high school. When he moved to Indianapolis for college, he wasn’t ready to take on academic challenges and be alone.

“It’s tough, you know, being a young adult trying to navigate this whole new world for the first time,” Carter said.

Carter, now 24, is taking a break from school to regain control of his mental health. Find care for depression and anxiety was not easy.

While attending classes, he could use the mental health services of the IUPUI. But now that he’s not registered, there is no more access and he’s struggling to find a supplier on his own.

“It’s like you’ve been forgotten or left behind, you know,” Carter said. “Because no one is answering your calls. But I felt like I was feeling a bit of a crisis that I needed to get it started or things would only get worse.

There is a term for Broughton, Carter and others like them – young adults in transition, ages 16-26 and graduating from high school, attending college, or entering the workforce.

Dr Anita Everett of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration says all of this increases the risk of mental illness.

“We know people make decisions that could impact the rest of their lives and things like that, there’s a lot of stress and a lot of pressure on people in that age group,” Everett said. .

Nance Roy is a psychologist at the JED Foundation, which supports the emotional health of young adults. She said insurance plays an important role in getting treatment.

“If you have insurance, you at least have the structure to be able to go online or pick up the phone and call the number on the back of your card,” Roy said.

But Roy said it could still take a long time to find a provider who accepts new patients because there aren’t enough providers.

A Kaiser Family Foundation study found that in Indiana, nearly a quarter of adults with symptoms of depression or anxiety had an unmet need for counseling or therapy. And a University of Michigan study found that there were only six psychiatrists in Indiana per 100,000 people. Both trends are consistent with national data.

Everett said that with increased funding through the Community Mental Health Block Grants program, Congress was trying to stop young adults from falling off the mental health cliff. This is an increase in funding for first episode psychosis programs – which provide comprehensive mental health care to young adults who have experienced episodes of serious mental illness for the first time.

“And the whole concept is to identify that as early as possible and help these kids, these people, these young adults get back on track,” Everett said.

Carter spent six months looking for a supplier. He has finally made an appointment, but he knows he is lucky to always be on the assurance of his parents.

“I really can’t imagine the struggle someone could have had that isn’t in my situation,” Carter said. “Because I have the feeling that the system is much more difficult than it should be. Especially for, you know, I think something is essential.

This story was produced by Side Effects Public Media, a news collaboration covering public health.


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