Barriers to accessing mental health support

In a 2019 article titled “Mental illnesses are Common, but Care is Lacking” published in Harvard Medical School, author Lauren Jett shares impressive numbers:


“Nearly 60% of people with mental illnesses did not seek treatment last year” [2018] and “ 25% of adults in developed countries experience significant mental health problems each year”.

There are many reasons why so few people actually get support and more importantly, get the right kind of support.


Not being able to identify it ourselves


The first reason can simply be that we do not know ourselves well enough to recognize that we are struggling mentally. We might assume it is just another tiring day, and find many other reasons for why we are feeling poorly. Unlike physical ailments, when the protocol of getting help (i.e. turning to GP) is well understood and routine, for mental well-being there’s no such habit or user experience.

Often because we do not know any better, but often also because we are afraid of what others might think of us if we shared how we really feel.


Not knowing what it involves


It seems quite a demanding thing to meet a professional and structure and convey your thoughts in a manner that condenses the issue at hand and leads to a smooth solution. It feels like a fuzzy thing and it is hard to talk to a stranger about it. Also, we might not know exactly what a professional can do about it, so it may be conveyed initial skepticism. So, awareness, peer support, and describing how the process works, and who does what (like we have done here) may help to overcome this.


Harder to recognise even for professionals


Because mental health symptoms may manifest different conditions and there’s no clear cut to distinguish these, the actual understanding of the underlying problem may come after a few sessions only. Medical advances in these areas have been slower than the ones in physical illnesses, as symptoms and cures have taken many different forms depending on the patient.





The mental health issue is sadly still very often associated with old cliches and stereotypical ideas associating it with weakness, lack of self-control, or even madness and insanity. There is still shame in admitting mental problems that give an image of fragility. A kind of vulnerability still seen negatively in our modern Society promoting resilience, growth, and productivity at (almost) all costs as the pinnacle of success, leaving no space for self-doubt and anxiety. Again, awareness raising is something that can have a very positive impact and encourage people to undertake this very needed path.




Lack of knowledge about the different offerings


Even when the condition is determined, it is not easy to keep track of all the possible services and support available and accessible to that particular case. There are loads of self-help materials on the internet, there are apps and there are professionals online these days, but it takes so much effort to run them all through and determine what is the best. Employer-led programs take that pain away, as they have often done the selection of the provider and this also comes with professional solutions that one can access and benefit from.




Last but absolutely not least, sadly access to mental health professionals such as psychologists and psychiatrists can be expensive and are not always covered by basic insurance.
People willing to seek support might be discouraged by the budget sometimes needed, and feel even more guilty to add an “unnecessary cost” to the household.



All of these reasons, and probably more, are why we believe it is essential that we play our part in talking about mental health in the workplace more freely and offer a safe space for individuals to address those issues without fear of stigma or worry about costs.