A new survey by Talkiatry, a leading provider of high-quality, in–network psychiatric care and one of the largest employers of psychiatrists in the US, reveals major roadblocks in understanding and accessing mental health care in America, even as overall awareness of mental health treatment is high.
Virtual care has streamlined access, but issues like stigma mean mental health providers must continue to educate the public about the benefits of treatment.
Mental health treatment in the US is at a crossroads. 90% of Americans believe the country is experiencing a mental health crisis. Barriers to access, including cost, proximity to care, and wait times, contribute to this crisis by complicating or delaying treatment or leading people not to seek help.
While 79% of respondents were open to seeking mental health treatment, and a majority have received mental health treatment or know an immediate family member who has (56%), they have gaps in knowledge that may put them at a disadvantage when seeking help.
For example, 38% do not know that psychiatrists have medical degrees. 13% believe psychiatrists and therapists provide the same treatment. Most (76%) know psychiatrists can prescribe medication, though this is strongly correlated with age: Boomers (85%), Gen X (80%), Millennials (71%), and Gen Z (64%).
These blind spots may explain why Gen Z battles anxiety and depression more than other generations.
Insurance issues plague access to mental health treatment, too. 60% say that finding a psychiatrist who accepts their insurance is one of the top obstacles to seeking mental health care, and 39% do not know that insurance can cover psychiatric appointments.
40% believe finding a local psychiatrist who accepts their insurance is more gruelling than filing taxes. But insurance is not the only hurdle to booking an appointment; the negative stigma surrounding mental health care is cited by more than half (53%) of survey respondents as a top barrier to seeking help, which can contribute to worsening symptoms.
These factors – high receptivity to mental health treatment but a lack of knowledge about how psychiatrists work, the insurance options available, and psychiatry’s enduring stigma – create an environment where patients looking for support do not know where to turn.
Addressing these trends should be the top priority for mental health professionals who understand the importance of improving access to psychiatric care in the US.
Virtual mental health care has been critical in opening doors for those who want help by simplifying the journey between patient and practitioner. Therefore, it’s no surprise most people prefer virtual appointments because of their convenience.
Most people (68%) would not see a psychiatrist if virtual visits were unavailable. Not needing to travel (63%), joining appointments from home (57%), and flexible appointment timing (51%), combined with 44% listing long waits at office visits as a barrier to seeking help, make virtual care a more attractive option.
“Virtual care has been a huge win for those looking for quality mental health treatment, but there are still a lot of misconceptions that, coupled with the stubborn spectre of mental health stigma, prevent people from speaking with a psychiatrist,” said Dr Georgia Gaveras, co-founder and Chief Medical Officer of Talkiatry.
“These national trends show where the mental health industry needs to continue increasing awareness and focusing on education, so we can better reach people across the country who are hurting.”
Wakefield Research’s online survey queried 1,000 nationally representative US adults between 4th–10th January 2023. Data was weighted to represent US adults ages 18 and over accurately.