One year ago, as I started thinking seriously about forming an organization focused on improving mental health, I began my research aimed at understanding the current needs of people experiencing mental health challenges. After a few searches online, it was quickly apparent that funding, stigma, awareness, and education were among the top challenges surrounding mental health in our society today. As I dug into mental health funding in the United States and worldwide, I found help to be out of reach for many people due to the financial burden associated with seeking assistance.
Financial Hurdles to Accessing Mental Health Care
Access due to monetary constraints has become one of the major contributors to people not seeking help when going through times of mental distress. We know that one in four people will experience some form of mental challenge each year, and of those, only 39%, or roughly two in five, will seek help. For individuals financially burdened, with and without insurance, countless are faced with choosing between food, heating, shelter, and transportation or paying for relatively expensive assistance. Untreated mental health burdens society and business, ultimately resulting in losses in overall economic productivity. More importantly, than economic productivity is the effect it is having on personal lives and relationships. It is poignant and unfortunate to know 61% of people without help are suffering, hopeless, and alone leaving them to live below their true potential or, even worse, end their lives out of desperation and hopelessness.
You may be asking yourself: can people use their insurance coverage to seek and pay for help? It is a good question – one we will cover in more detail in the coming weeks. I will, however, say that many people who are covered by an insurance policy report having limited access to mental health treatment either due to expensive insurance deductibles or their insurance coverage is not required to cover mental health treatment.
If one in every four people will experience a mental health challenge this year with three out of every five of those not seeking help (financial reasons being the top driver), you may wonder, what is society doing to ensure access to help is accessible and affordable? Let’s dive in and find out.
Who is funding mental health research worldwide?
The United States is home to 31 percent of the research funding, with the most prominent being organizations and departments within the federal government. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) were the top two funders overall, but other research funders, such as the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the National Institute on Aging, and the Department of Veterans Affairs, also featured in the top-ten global funders. Most of the current funding is aimed at researching mental health with relatively few programs solely focused on providing access to mental health help for those who do not have insurance, mental health coverage, who or cannot afford it.
How does public funding for mental health compare to other causes such as cancer?
According to a 2019 British study conducted by the mental health research charity MQ, only 3% of funding came from charity fundraising, which is insignificant compared with cancer (68%), cardiovascular disease (41%), and dementia (28%). They also found that across 4 years (2014-17), an average of $162 million was spent on mental health research compared to $798.23 million for cancer.
What this means is that 25 times more was spent on research per person with cancer than was spent on research per person with mental health challenges.
Louise Arseneault, a contributor, from the website nationalelfservice.net summarized it best by saying, “The economic impact of mental illnesses on society is considerable with an estimated $130 (converted to US dollars) billion per year. The take-home message here is not that mental illness is more important than cancer but instead, that given its burden on society, mental health research should receive its fair share of investment. It will also not be a surprise to read that mental health research funding has remained unchanged for the past decade…”
As you can see, we need additional private, institutional, and government funding to move the needle on mental health.
Recent Funding Wins:
In October of 2018, President Donald Trump signed into law H.R. 6157, a measure to fund the Department of Health and Human Services and other federal agencies for the fiscal year 2019. This bill went into effect in 2019 and provided increased funding, as a pilot, to improve access to mental health and wellness treatment. Their hypothesis is that increasing funding targeted at training school counselors and other mental health professionals will improve access to support for low-income communities. Below are the details of the bill:
Health and Human Services funding
- $1.5 billion for state opioid response grants
- $150 million for certified community behavioral health centers
- $105 million for the National Health Service Corps, including a provision for loan repayment for professionals working individuals dealing with substance-use issues
- $75 million for the Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training program
- $63.8 million for the National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative
- $36.2 million for Mental and Behavioral Health Education and Training
- $24.5 million for telehealth programs, including a $1 million increase for evidence-based grants related to school safety
- $12 million for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- $1.17 billion for Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants, which include school counseling and school mental health programs
- $10 million for the Safe Schools and Education pilot program, to test and evaluate partnerships between universities and state and local education agencies to train school counselors and other mental health professionals for positions in public school systems serving low-income communities
Another bright spot in recent funding wins for mental health is a generous donation by the Huntsman family to establish the Huntsman Mental Health Institute (HMHI) in Salt Lake City, Utah. Funding provided by the Huntsman family sets the foundation for:
- Improving mental health resources for young adults.
- Increasing mental health resources in underserved communities.
- Advancing research for improved mental health treatment.
- Identifying the genetic basis of mental health conditions.
What does all this mean?
Research funding for physical illness and disease, such as cancer, far outpace mental health funding even though mental wellness impacts a higher percentage of the overall population. There is, however, a growing awareness of the magnitude and impact of mental health on individuals and society including happiness and productivity levels. This awareness is perpetuating increases in investments made by generous individuals, such as the Huntsman family, and the federal government. With that said, access to mental health is still largely underfunded with many still struggling to access resources, such as therapy, needed to improve their mental wellness and health.
How You Can Help:
We ask you to donate to Overt Foundation to further our cause of restoring mental health, one person and community at a time, so that, together, we will actualize our highest potential. If you’d like to donate, go to www.overtfoundation.org. Since our operations are fully funded, 100% of your donation will go towards helping someone access the help they need from a certified mental health professional. We cautiously select each person admitted into our program after assessing their readiness and need through a thoughtful and thorough application and interview process. We select only those who are ready, willing, and able to put in the effort to change their lives through using our highly effective model. To ensure each recipient is invested in their own progression, we require every recipient to financially contribute. We encourage you to learn more about our vision and model.
For those who have experienced mental health highs and lows, we ask you to be open, share your story, or ask an anonymous question. Help us continue to remove the stigma surrounding mental health. If you don’t struggle with mental health, statistics show someone close to you does and would love your love and support.
Together, with your help, we will restore mental health one person and community at a time!
Kylan founded Overt Foundation in January 2019 as a way for him to help others who are struggling with the same mental health circumstances he experienced throughout his life. Kylan’s purpose in life is to empower, motivate, and inspire the development of humanity so that, together, we will actualize our highest potential.