Are Millennials Receiving Adequate Mental Health Coverage?

By: Hannah Sentenac

How hard is it to find the right health insurance, one that covers all of your medical and mental health needs and is affordable? It’s difficult for all of us, but more challenging for some. Now is the open enrollment period for many employer-sponsored health insurance plans, the ACA, and Medicare. Over the next several weeks CFYM will look at a variety of challenges facing different populations, beginning with today’s post on the generation of Millennials. .

Millennials are a lot of things: large in number, highly nontraditional, devotees of the almighty Google. A massive generation, we encompass everyone born between 1980 and 1999, which totals 80 Million+ Americans.

Unfortunately, we’re also a generation suffering from a lot of mental health woes.

Studies show Millennials tend to suffer from higher stress levels and mental health concerns than other generations. A 2013 study by the American Psychological Association and Harris Interactive found that more Millennials have been diagnosed with depression and anxiety than any other living generation, and that we’re more stressed than any other living generation.

This is a group in need of mental health care. Unfortunately, economic concerns often leave Millennials without the proper resources.

Health insurance and job security aren’t what they once were. Freelancing and self-employment are on the rise, and one study showed that 45% of Millennials will choose workplace flexibility over pay. Many are employed in lower wage positions, often with no benefits, working as freelancers or holding multiple jobs to make ends meet.

This lack of economic security means there’s little room for extras such as health insurance. One study by InsuranceQuotes.com and Princeton Survey Research Associates International showed that 24% of Americans aged 18 to 29 don’t have coverage. And according to a recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a quarter of people who are uninsured say they can’t afford to purchase coverage.

So what’s a broke Millennial to do when it comes to mental health?

I know this topic well. As a self-employed writer, I’ve experienced more than a few bouts of economic hardship when I couldn’t afford to put gas in my car, much less shell out for health insurance. (Some people might say, “Get a salaried job already,” but I’ve been there, done that. And the truth is, many companies are cutting benefits, even for salaried workers.)

Concurrent with economic insecurity, I suffered on and off from severe depression. This experience showed me firsthand about the lack of options for those short on funds.

If you can’t afford insurance, your options are the emergency room (where you’ll be saddled with bills you can’t pay) or applying for government-subsidized care, which is difficult, if not impossible, depending on income. Many Millennials might not meet government standards for poverty, but they’re broke nonetheless.

And even with healthcare reform in place, shoestring budgets simply don’t allow for $200 per month insurance premiums. Not to mention, even if you can just-barely afford insurance, increasingly high deductibles and co-pays are another barrier to care.

This lack of affordable, realistic options means a lot of young people are going without treatment. At various times in my life, that was me.

I’m not throwing a pity party for Millennials, but I am sounding a wake-up call about the reality of our current system. If we want a healthy, well-adjusted society, and happy, productive future leaders, mental health care is a must. And not just access to prescription meds, either, but options tailored to the individual — choices like therapy, group access, holistic treatments, and mind-body medicine.

I believe there’s a brighter future for mental health care. And the good news is, there are some available options for low-income Millennials in need of care … sometimes they’re just not so easy to find.

The more we have this conversation and highlight the importance of care and treatment availability, the more these issues will be given priority by government officials—and society at large.

We all need a helping hand once in a while, and it makes life a lot easier when one is readily available.

Questions

  • What are some options for low-income Millennials in need of care?
  • How are the people you know in this situation dealing with their mental health conditions?

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3 comments
kimgallen
kimgallen

I know that earlier in my life at the same age as Millennials (from about 18 to 30), I preferred to work independently, as well. I also would say that I was underemployed, particularly in early recovery for depression/alcoholism, yet my response was to take a job with employer groups of over 50 employees, regardless of how I felt about it. I knew I needed to be insured, so I did what I had to do. This was due to my clear understanding of the staggering cost of healthcare.  I consistently worked for employer groups because I needed proper coverage. When I was not doing so, I was on a COBRA plan off and on. The premiums averaged at about $400 or more per month. I have never had a premium that was $200 per month. For these reasons and others, I would consistently return to roles with employer groups, even though I prefer being independently employed and was successful at it. Working independently had to wait until I was older, which is now. My premiums are closer to $550 per month, so I have to work exceptionally hard to afford that.  I think that underemployment and unemployment are fairly high for Millennials and if that is the case, then they must realize that insurance benefits are not going to be there. That is their choice to make. I know it is very difficult that the employers are dropping coverage, so likely, were I a Millennial, I would attempt to work for employers who negotiated benefits as part of the deal. At minimum, I would assure they had supplemental benefits reps come in so I could buy portable benefits for hospital care, for cancer and the like. My point is, one must be responsible about going about finding benefits. Be it through supplemental benefits like Aflac; be it through negotiating employer relationships that include benefits and less income etc... Of course there is Healthcare.gov and that option is new. People need to study how the ACA does compel parity, that meaning that MH and CD care are part of the coverage. 

Brandy Weise Taylor
Brandy Weise Taylor

Some affordable options: free employee assistance programs, churches, women's centers, free anger management classes that are often court ordered. Also, support groups such as NAMI, national alliance of mental illness, or DBSA, depression bipolar support alliance groups. Local medical clinic, mental health facilities offices, health department, cancer centers, hospice caretaker classes. That's a partial list of what I did when broke post near death domestic violence assault with chronic pain, PTSD , stroke level blood pressure, suicidal, and had police calls about my anger- aggression post DV, and TBI a lot for a few years. I've learned to avoid triggers when possible . I talked to drug rehabilitation counselors, attended Alcoholic anonymous meetings and Al-anon, community Overcomer's meetings although I'm not an addict. I went to post abortion, pregnancy option if adoption, and financial help for mothers Catholic Charities place one day crying after a miscarriage. Domestic violence support groups, cancer center support group when upset about my dad's diagnosis, free voluntary anger management classes. I still call 24 hour prayer lines every week. I volunteered- even as simple as opening door for someone else, now I formally volunteer at a hospital weekly. I understand chronic pain, multiple losses, mental illnesses, and lack of family support. My cousin committed suicide last year leaving 3 preschool age sons, distraught sister and brother, and heartbroken other family. There is help. Show up angry, crying, in a panic attack, with mental and physical pain to appropriate places, or not. Someone will listen, and lead the person to a better place to obtain help.