The misconceptions about mental health and access to healthcare and mental health services will likely affect you or someone close to you. Find out what you can do and how to deal with the things out of your control.
Several myths about mental health and well being lead us to make poor decisions. To improve the quality of life, we want to bust the mythology around these issues. Before we get to the specifics of mental health and the healthcare system, let’s look at the attributes of myths in general.
Let’s look at some facts about myths and then show how they influence the myths about emotional and psychological health affect our lives. Then we can discuss what we can do about it.
The Facts and Functions of Myth
These myths are the basis of misinformation about health. It is how prejudice and bias become part of the culture. People believe these superstitions.
The healthcare insurance industry uses these myths to profit from the delivery of services. They provide no benefit. Instead, they siphon off valuable financial resources that would otherwise go to healthcare providers and increase the overall cost of healthcare by nearly 40%.
All of the misconceptions about mental health and access to healthcare and mental health services start with the insurance industry. 43 of the 44 most developed countries have universal healthcare, not healthcare provided by a third party. The United States is the exception.
1) Fact number one, myths are powerful. Harbor a myth long enough, and you believe it is a fact. Mythology and superstition can be more powerful than logic and common sense. The more exposure to myths, the harder they are to overcome.
“You can’t use reason to convince anyone out of an argument that they didn’t use reason to get into.” ― Neil deGrasse Tyson
2) Fact number two, many myths become invisible. When a myth becomes embedded and accepted as part of the cultural narrative, it becomes invisible. Myths and superstitions are so pervasive most people do not see them. Myths and superstitions often contain harmful biases and prejudices. Myths are the most dangerous when they are invisible. Invisibility is one of the functions of myth that religion uses to motivate and control people. It happens when religious folklore dominates the cultural narrative. Learning to spot them is the first step in overcoming their power.
Seeing your beliefs as myths is a major admission for anyone. It is difficult for the hardline religious acolyte. When these myths are a part of your identity, it is scary to see them as superstition. The Ego can identify with anything that gives it power.
“The ego is only an illusion, but a very influential one. Letting the ego illusion become your identity can prevent you from knowing your true self. Ego, the false idea of believing that you are what you have or what you do, is a backward way of assessing and living life.” — Wayne Dyer
3) Fact number three people use myths to justify harmful acts. People use mythology and superstition to justify their harmful actions. When religious myth becomes the laws of a culture, then it becomes the basis for bias and prejudice.
“In America, you are allowed to justify almost any kind of bigotry, sexism, or intolerance if you source it to God.” — Bill Maher
Misconceptions About Mental Health
With a basic understanding of the three facts about myths, we can move on to the realm of our mental health and well being. There are some preconceived assumptions here as well.
There are four main areas of our well-being.
It’s vital to have holistic health goals that balance these criteria. We want our lives to matter. We affect everyone in our sphere of influence, but this has a ripple effect. So, we must be mindful that our actions bring about positive change.
When we are “out of balance,” we may not project the positive shadow we want. Our health suffers. Achieving balance is easier for some than for others. There are some common misconceptions about mental health that we want to bring to light.
Access to Healthcare and Mental Health Services
Many people focus on physical wellness. It is easier to measure but excludes the other three areas of life. This miscalculation leads to an imbalance. Research by the Society of Human Resources (1) (SHRM) shows about half of all employees have personal issues which impact work performance. Personal finance and mental health also need to be a part of a wellness plan.
SHRM surveys show work-life balance issues account for a significant amount of absenteeism. Financial and childcare issues are at the top of the list, which causes absenteeism—the cost of food and shelter increases which only causes more stress. Many people do not have the income to keep up with rising costs.
The US Department of Health reported in 2000 that stress is a significant factor in at least 50% of all illnesses. (2) This shows the importance of mental health and the ability to learn proper coping skills. It’s worth noting that this report is well before the pandemic, so the stress factor is likely to increase.
Unequal Access to Healthcare
One of the first myths about emotional health and psychological well-being we want to bust is that everyone has the same access and distribution of these elements. This assumption is false. People who live in poverty can’t simply find a job. There are laws to protect people with disabilities, but subtle forms of disparate treatment allow employers to find better candidates.
If you look at what the insurance industry says it takes versus what the healthcare industry gets, the difference is closer to 33%. That means one-third of every dollar spent on healthcare goes to the agent who stands between you and your doctor. If you can’t afford to pay for it, you go without healthcare.
In America, you’ll need health insurance. And you’ll also need separate policies for eye care, dental, and psychological counseling. Otherwise, you must pay the retail price for services, often thousands of dollars. Why is it so costly? Because the hospital or healthcare provider must make up for the losses of the profits taken by the insurance industry.
The healthcare insurance industry controls the price it is willing to pay for healthcare services. Do some research. You’ll find the same medical procedure will vary significantly between medical providers. They set the price for the uninsured to make up for what the insurance companies skim off the top for their insured patients.
If you are too ill or injured, you may be unable to shop around for the best care at the best price. That works to the benefit of both the healthcare provider and the insurance company. If you can’t pay and are in the hospital, they can put leans against your home or other assets to pay for their excessive charges. If you get cancer and your insurance policy does not cover the treatment, you must choose between medicine or homelessness.
As COVID-19 contlines, it increases the divide in the culture. This rift causes a rise in the number of people with mental health issues. Some continue to follow the recommendations of the CDC. They get vaccinations, use facemasks, and practice social distancing. Others ignore the risks of COVID, which increases the spread of more variants.
States and municipalities cannot shoulder the burden of the costs of housing and treatment. So, the facilities are closed, and those who cannot afford expensive private treatment are put out on the streets to fend for themselves. A large percentage of people experiencing homelessness were once in public mental health centers. The only way they can get the care they need is to commit a serious crime. Then they can receive care in the prison system.
Race and ethnicity are at the root of the disparate impact. Religion teaches a tribal worldview that judges people of other backgrounds with skepticism and contempt. They teach their members to give preferential treatment to those part of the tribe. If the tribal worldview is narrow, it excludes others. This disparate treatment starts with educational institutions and continues with healthcare providers. Even if you don’t align with their values, you follow along because of peer pressure.
The Walking Wounded
If you work for a company large enough to have a good health and wellness program, then a certain amount of mental healthcare benefits are within your reach. The myths about emotional health and psychological well-being are needed by corporate culture to keep you productive. In other words, your employer requires you to keep working.
The myth of the walking wounded is simple: you can work, which is all that is important. You are at least well enough to keep working. When we look at the other factors, such as stress, financial inequity, negative workplace stereotypes against age, race, ethnicity, and disparity in access to proper healthcare, it leads to high turnover.
Employees leave employers unwilling to face the new reality of the world. If an employer depends upon these inequities to substantiate their business model, they should not be in business in the first place. As more employees become savvy, they are unionizing where possible. Corporations cannot say they can’t afford to pay higher wages while boasting the highest profit margins on record. They can’t say they can’t afford to pay more when average CEOs make 324 times more than their employees. (3)
Improving Healthcare Access
We should focus our attention on the factors we can control immediately. We can influence some of these more quickly and directly, and others have less control to change.
Whole health goals are reachable if we have the right resources. Our current physical and mental health and socioeconomic status are areas that are harder to change and manage. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have long-term goals to improve our mental or physical health. Nor should we lose sight of long-term educational and professional objectives.
Working toward long-term goals gives our life purpose, and that’s a good thing. But these objectives take time to achieve. They are investments in our future that we make sacrifices to obtain. However, we need to be careful that our sacrifices for our careers do not create an imbalance undermining our long-term health.
Your socioeconomic status is a major factor in your health. It determines what level of healthcare is available. And your access to quality healthcare predicts your level of physical and mental health.
There is a correlation between socioeconomic status and the choices you make. These choices include the level of physical activity, diet, and use of drugs and tobacco. Focusing on what we can do now to achieve and maintain as healthy a balance as possible is critical.
We can see how the functions of myth in our modern culture affect healthcare. The insurance industry promotes these negative stereotypes so they can continue to profit. The healthcare insurance industry provides no benefit to the individual; they stand between the physician and the patent to profit from the delivery of healthcare services.
Fact number one shows how mythologies and superstitions override the ability of otherwise ordinary people to make the proper decisions about their physical health and emotional well-being. It is one of the functions of myth that works against us. People make decisions based on religious and political fallacies that push back against science’s facts.
Fact number two shows how wide acceptance of mythology and superstition make them almost invisible in the culture. It distorts values that make unequal access to healthcare possible and an accepted part of our cultural folklore.
Fact three mythology and superstition become the justification for harmful behavior, including the disparities in healthcare.
These facts underscore the need to learn how to overcome the roadblocks to health. We need to share the myths about emotional health and psychological well-being. We cannot leave decisions about our health up to employers or the insurance industry. All of the misconceptions about mental health and access to healthcare and mental health services start and end with the health insurance industry.
We hope this article is food for thought and action.
(2) US Department of Health on Stress as a significant cause of illness.
(3) Forbes, CEOs Made 324 Times More Than Their Median Workers In 2021, Union Report Finds.
(4) American Psychological Association on the Impact of Socioeconomic Status and Health.